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Lionfish Derby at Mote

The second annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby is an exciting and environmentally beneficial event that invites SCUBA divers and snorkelers to compete to collect as many lionfish as possible in an effort to control the spread of this invasive species. (Scroll to bottom for registration.)

The Derby will be hosted by Mote Marine Laboratory, a world-class marine science institution, in cooperation with Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), which helps study and address the lionfish invasion and sanctions official Lionfish Derbies, and ZooKeeper, the Sarasota-based manufacturer of the leading lionfish containment unit used throughout invaded areas.

Lionfish are venomous, fast-reproducing fish that pose a major threat to Florida’s native species and ecosystems. They consume more than 70 different species of fish and crustaceans, and in heavily invaded areas they have reduced fish populations by up to 90 percent and continue to consume native fishes at unsustainable rates.

The only controlling predators of invasive lionfish in Florida are humans — and the fish are delicious to eat. Lionfish Derbies are an important way to harvest large numbers of this invasive species that has spread along the eastern Atlantic coast, through the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

The Derby will take place from July 10 – 12, with the captains’ meeting on July 10, lionfish hunting July 11 in the beautiful Gulf of Mexico spanning from Collier County to Escambia County and the lionfish weigh-in July 12.

Continued on Mote’s website here »


Bonita Springs City Council passes resolution aimed at groundwater protection and recharge

By Patrick Riley

Bonita Springs’ city council breezed through its meeting Wednesday morning (June 17th) until a resolution regarding water quality and quantity initiatives made waves.

The seven measures of the resolution, which range from supporting projects that create additional water storage in protected lands in East Bonita Springs to fostering more collaboration between city, state, county and private agencies, were eventually approved, 4-3, but not without a spirited discussion.

Councilmen Bill Lonkart and Peter Simmons, who were joined by Mike Gibson in voting against the resolution, were concerned about what the initiatives would mean for the city’s budget.

“We don’t know how much money is left,” Simmons said after city staff wasn’t able to tell Lonkart what the state of the water-related budget for the year is.

“Are we putting a horse before the cart or not? So I think we’re voting prematurely. We don’t know how much money’s left and you’re getting out ahead of this thing a little bit.”

The measures are part of 34 recommendations from a citizen-led task force, the Citizen Water Task Force, that were presented to city council during a workshop earlier this year. Council boiled down the initiatives to 29 and instructed city staff to come up with a suggested plan of action and timetable for each. The initiatives are categorized as either short-term, mid-term (about a year) or long-term, and deal with water quality, quantity, supply and miscellaneous items.

Wednesday’s resolution included the creation of a multi-agency group that would facilitate water projects in and around the Density Reduction Groundwater Resource (DRGR) area “from concept to implementation,” according to city documents.

Continued in The Banner »


Polk Commissioners OK 2 Swiftmud Agreements

By Tom Palmer

BARTOW – Polk County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve two agreements with the Southwest Florida Water Management District. One is to continue working toward forming a county-wide water supply agency and the other is to seek funding to develop future water supplies. "This is an important step," said County Manager Jim Freeman, who explained this advances an effort underway for the past 10 years to come up with a way to develop alternative water supplies to avoid over pumping the Floridan aquifer. According to projections outlined in the recently published Central Florida Water Initiative report, Polk will need an additional 47 million gallons per day within the next 20 years just to satisfy demand by municipal utilities.

Continued in The Ledger »


Skip The Fertilizer to Protect Our Fun!

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The partners of the Be Floridian fertilizer education campaign remind residents of Manatee, Sarasota and Pinellas counties and the city of Tampa that they can't apply nitrogen or phosphorous to lawn and landscape plants from June 1-September 30. But that doesn't mean your grass will turn brown, shrivel up and die!

Garden centers throughout these communities offer a variety of "summer-safe" yard products that will help keep your landscape green and growing throughout our long, hot summer. Look for fertilizers with "0" as the first two numbers on the label (as in 0-0-6). These do not contain either nitrogen or phosphorous. More than 70% of these summer-safe products are made right here in Florida, so you are helping local businesses and our economy when you purchase them.

Summer rains don't water fertilizer in, they wash it away -- right into our ponds, rivers, Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Too much fertilizer can cause algae blooms and fish kills, spoiling the beautiful waterways that are our major source of recreation. Follow these Florida-friendly lawn care practices to "protect our fun" this summer:

  • Pump some iron. An application of iron, readily available at most garden centers, will keep your lawn green during the summer without excessive growth. Who wants to mow every week anyway?
  • Micro-size It! Apply micronutrients such as zinc and manganese to keep your grass healthy.
  • Get Better Dirt. Mix in composted cow or chicken manure, or your own home compost, to enrich your soil. It's like giving vitamins to your yard.
  • Pick better plants. Buy plants adapted to Florida's hot, humid climate and plant them in the right place according to their sun and water needs. They'll need less water, fertilizer and chemicals year-round, and you'll have more time for bicycling, boating, grilling or just relaxing by the pool sipping a drink with a little umbrella in it.Visit http://plantrealflorida.org/ or http://floridayards.org/ for ideas.
  • Leave Clippings on the Lawn! Don't feed algae blooms by blowing grass clippings into the street, or down the storm drain where they will wash into our waterways. Instead, leave them on your lawn. They are free fertilizer and can supply at least 25% of the nitrogen your grass needs throughout the year.
Less Lawn = More Fun!

Tired of all that mowing, watering and warring with chinch bugs and dollarweed? "Cut" the amount of grass in your yard, by a little or a lot.

Replace water-needy turfgrass with a drought-tolerant groundcover like Asiatic jasmine or perennial peanut. Make a butterfly garden and watch winged jewels visit your flowers. Install a meandering pathway with stepping stones, gravel, shell or pavers. Create your own special seating area under a shady oak.

See how homeowners throughout the region have reduced water, fertilizer and pestcides in our Florida Yard photo gallery!


Volunteers sought for July scallop search

Join Florida Sea Grant - UF/IFAS Lee County Extension and the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation by participating in the 2015 Pine Island Sound Scallop Search, a resource-monitoring program in which volunteers snorkel, looking for scallops in select areas within Pine Island Sound. The purpose of this program is to monitor and document the health and status of the bay scallop populationand is designed to be a fun family event. Reservations are required to participate in the event. Space is limited so reserve your spot today.

Up to 40 boats are needed with as many as 150 participants to search selected sites in Pine Island Sound and San Carlos Bay for the elusive “bay scallop”. Large populations of bay scallops (or Argopecten irradians) disappeared from Southwest Florida waters decades ago due in large part to degraded water quality, related declines in seagrass acreage, over harvesting and other causes. Water quality and seagrasses have improved in many areas to levels that may once again support these important bivalves .

Scallop searchers will meet at 8:30 a.m. at Pineland Marina, 13921 Waterfront Dr, Bokeelia, FL., to receive survey equipment and instructions for the monitoring event. We will provide lunch to participants once you return to shore and report your information.

They are recruiting:

  • Volunteers with shallow draft boats. Please let us know the style and size of your boat. Canoes and kayaks are also welcome, but sites are very limited, please sign up early. Jet skis are not allowed in the search. Please bring a dive flag if you have one.
  • Please let us know how many additional people you can take on your boat so we can pair you with additional snorkelers
  • Snorkelers without boats are welcome, however space is limited.
  • Volunteers need to bring: a mask, snorkel and gloves and be able to snorkel/swim 50 meters (about 150 feet) along the bottom—fins and weight belt are optional but suggested.

Reservations are required and survey sites and equipment are limited. The Scallop Search promises to be a popular event—so sign up early! Click here to make a reservation


Study: Third of Big Groundwater Basins in Distress

About one third of Earth's largest groundwater basins are being rapidly depleted by human consumption, despite having little accurate data about how much water remains in them, according to two new studies led by the University of California, Irvine (UCI), using data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites.

This means that significant segments of Earth's population are consuming groundwater quickly without knowing when it might run out, the researchers conclude. The findings are published today in Water Resources Research.

"Available physical and chemical measurements are simply insufficient," said UCI professor and principal investigator Jay Famiglietti, who is also the senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Given how quickly we are consuming the world's groundwater reserves, we need a coordinated global effort to determine how much is left."

The studies are the first to comprehensively characterize global groundwater losses with data from space, using readings generated by NASA's twin GRACE satellites. GRACE measures dips and bumps in Earth's gravity, which are affected by the mass of water. In the first paper, researchers found that 13 of the planet's 37 largest aquifers studied between 2003 and 2013 were being depleted while receiving little to no recharge.

Continued on NASA’s website here »


FWC to meet June 23-25 in Sarasota

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet June 23-25 in the Hyatt Regency, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota. All sessions are open to members of the public who want to attend.

The half-day session Tuesday, June 23, starts at 1:30 p.m. and focuses on strategic discussions on:

  • The Florida panther – Staff will give a status report on panther conservation and management for Commission discussion and policy direction.
  • Imperiled Species Management Plan – A summary of changes staff made to the draft plan based on new scientific information and stakeholder input, as well as potential species listing reclassifications.

The sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, June 24 and 25, both start at 8:30 a.m. The public will be provided opportunities to speak during these two days.

Topics on the June 24 agenda are:
  • Voting on the consent agenda.
  • Staff will present proposed final rules for bear management, including revised measures against intentional feeding of bears and other wildlife and new rules for a limited bear hunting season.
  • Staff will also present proposed draft rules to change statewide and specific length limits for black bass species. The proposed changes will be presented for final rule in June 2016 and would take effect in July 2016.

Topics on the June 25 agenda include:
  • A possible barracuda draft rule addressing population declines in south Florida.
  • Discussion of a proposed special opportunity for lobster harvesters who remove invasive lionfish during the two-day lobster mini-season.

For the full agenda and links to background reports, go to MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings.” Follow live coverage on Twitter @MyFWC (https://twitter.com/MyFWC) and join in the conversation by using tag #FWC2015! Check the Florida Channel for possible live coverage at http://thefloridachannel.org/.


Volunteers needed for Lee County oyster reef construction

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Lab has undertaken a project to increase oyster reef habitat in Lee County and needs enthusiastic volunteers to help make it a reality.

Healthy oyster populations and seagrass beds are vital to the health of estuarine ecosystems. Excessive freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee have resulted in losses of these critical habitats in the Caloosahatchee, San Carlos Bay and Matlacha Pass. To offset these impacts and build resiliency, the Caloosahatchee Estuary Resource Recovery Pilot project proposes a four-part restoration and monitoring plan. The intent of this program is to replace critical ecosystem components such as oyster reefs and SAV that were lost by the high volume 2013 discharges to the N. estuaries. This project is funded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Sites were chosen to increase resiliency to severe floods or severe droughts at increasing FDEP sitesdistances from the main source of freshwater, the Caloosahatchee. Sites closer to the Caloosahatchee (east) will have higher oyster settlement and survival during dry periods, while sites farther away (west) will fair better during floods. The map also shows sites located within J.N. “Ding” Darling’s Tarpon Bay. The orange triangles are oyster restoration sites and the red dots are sawfish encounters (FWC-provided data, 2003-2013).

The reefs will be expanded using restaurant-collected oyster shell supplemented with fossilized shell. Oyster density, size-frequency, settlement, and reef associated animals will be compared to nearby reference sites and unrestored sites. The filtering capacity of the reef will be estimated through a collaboration with Dr. Ray Grizzle from the Jackson Estuarine Lab at the University of New Hampshire.IMG_3102

Arrangements were made with Lee County Natural Resources and Mosquito Control District to take a helicopter flight and photo restoration sites. This image is from 200 ft. looking at a site where fossilized shell will be placed with an excavator in 2015. The PVC poles mark the perimeter of the area to be restored (0.9 acres).

Elevation surveys (pre-construction) were conducted on March 26, 2015. A slide show of the team determining the level of reference reefs and the pre-construction restoration site in Tarpon Bay can be found here.

Sign up here »

Learn more in this video:


Read about all the news at Florida LAKEWATCH

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The latest issue of the Florida LAKEWATCH newsletter is now available!

  • Current Lake Management Issues of Concern
  • LAKEWATCH Volunteers Help Evaluate New Technology
  • Search for Rare Native Florida Fishes
  • Participate in the Great Secchi Dip-in
  • FWC Conservation Measures in Place for Unique American Eels
  • Volunteer Bulletin Board
  • Florida’s Ornamental Aquaculture

Read the latest issues of the Florida LAKEWATCH newsletter »


CHEC offers summer camp for area students

The Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, or CHEC, has received a grant from the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, allowing CHEC to team up with a local organization dedicated to supporting the growth and development of youth within the Charlotte community.

As a result, CHEC will be offering environmentally focused summer camp programs to 30 students from New Operation Cooper Street at no cost.

The camp will be designed to promote academic achievement and the health and well being of local watershed and related ecosystems.

Each camper will be given the opportunity to participate in scientifically based experimentation, marine-themed crafts, wading trips and other hands-on activities.

These lessons are designed to give students a better understanding of natural resources and the methods they can use to preserve local marine ecosystems.

Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center is also launching its inaugural six-week summer camp season, being offered at $100 per week for full-day environmental education. CHEC is able offer this program at half the original rate, thanks to the donation of time by a certified Charlotte County schoolteacher.

These programs will take place in both Punta Gorda and Englewood locations. To learn more, call 575-5435 or visit checflorida.org.

Click here to view original source


Register now for CHNEP Behavior Change Workshop

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) invites you to a behavior change workshop on Monday, August 31, 2015 at the Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension. We are delighted Salter>Mitchell will lead this workshop. CHNEP is a partnership working to protect the natural environment from Venice to Bonita Springs to Winter Haven. Salter>Mitchell is a marketing and communication agency focused on change — behavior change, culture change and changing public opinion.

Participants will be introduced to the concept and application of behavior change outreach in a way that will shift how they think about and conduct educational outreach efforts going forward, and will leave them feeling more confident about putting this practice into action.

The workshop will cover key steps to creating a successful behavior change effort — from determining one's target behavior and audiences, to conducting research, to developing a plan with creative components purposefully designed to influence behavior. Each participants will be given their own behavior change toolkit.

Click here for more information and to register for the event


App will show level of algae in water

WASHINGTON — The same technology that allows you to consult your phone to figure out when a big storm is moving in could soon help you decide the best places to fish and swim.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is using satellite technology for an app it’s developing that’s aimed at helping both water-quality managers and, eventually, the public, determine the level of toxic algae in their water sources.

They’re in the process now of beta-testing the app with staff at the EPA. The next step will be to send it to designated water-quality managers in Ohio and Florida to have them test it for any bugs, said Blake Schaeffer, an assistant lab director for the National Exposure Research Lab at the EPA.

It’s technology spawned by last summer’s issues in Lake Erie. For more than two days in August, Toledo residents were barred from drinking tap water because of a toxic algae contamination.

Schaeffer said while satellite data can help people determine the safety of their water, that information is “not accessible to people who need to make decisions like water quality managers."

Continued on The Columbus Dispatch »


Walton Ranch ribbon-cutting set for June 8

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The community is invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the Walton Ranch site at 10 a.m., on Monday, June 8.

The ribbon-cutting is a celebration to recognize the opening of this preserve site, which offers a host of recreation and educational opportunities in a beautiful, natural setting.

"We are so happy to be opening this preserve to the public," said Carolyn Brown, director of Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources. "It's another important piece for our conservation land corridor in south county and it will be enjoyed for generations to come."

The 3,760-acre preserve was purchased by Sarasota County in 2010 using funding through the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program (ESLPP), in partnership with the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The preserve features ranchland, natural habitats and valuable water resources. Hiking, biking and birding are just a few of the available recreational opportunities.

This ribbon-cutting is the first phase of an ongoing effort to enhance amenities at the preserve.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Walton Ranch site, located at 7020 N. Toledo Blade Blvd., North Port, is scheduled for 10 a.m., Monday, June 8.

For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.​

Friends of Sarasota County Parks website »


Sarasota Bay Guardians Host Volunteer Event - Siesta Key Beach

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The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program's Bay Guardians are teaming up with Sarasota County Parks and Natural Resources and, Around the Bend Nature Tours for a volunteer day.The group will be helping to plant native plants and remove trash at Siesta Key beach.

Check-in at Pavilion #25 which is in the southernmost picnic area adjacent to the parking lot. Park in the most southern lot.

This event is suitable for all ages.

Please wear hat, sunscreen, close-toed shoes (old tennis shoes work great), clothes that can get dirty and work gloves. Also, please bring a reusable water bottle if you have one to reduce our plastic pollution. Since we will be planting bring a shovel or trowel if you have one.

Bay Guardians shirts will be available for all volunteers! If you already have one please wear your shirt to the event. Please carpool if you can!

WHAT: Bay Guardians Volunteer Day

WHERE: Siesta Key 948 Beach Rd. Sarasota, FL 34221

WHEN: Saturday, June 13th, 2015, 9:00am-12:00pm

Lunch will be provided for all volunteers after the activities are done!

RSVP Required: Click here to register!

Questions? Contact info@sarasotabay.org, 941-955-8085


House Passes Posey-Murphy Bipartisan Plan to Help Estuaries with Critical Needs

Washington, Jun 1 - Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 944) to reauthorize funding for the National Estuary Program (NEP). Reps. Bill Posey and Patrick Murphy, two of four principal co-authors of H.R. 944, were able to secure the inclusion of their bipartisan plan (H.R. 573) to reprioritize existing funding so more money is available for estuaries with critical needs like our Indian River Lagoon. In July, Posey and Murphy introduced the Estuary Urgent Needs Priority Program Act to meet high priority needs across the nation’s 28 national estuaries.

“This common sense plan will help provide critical funding for our nation’s estuaries, and make available additional funding to estuaries that are experiencing urgent and challenging ecological problems, including our own Indian River Lagoon,” said Rep. Posey. “I’m pleased to see this important legislation move forward in a strongly bipartisan manner.”

“This year, toxic algae blooms have already threatened our waterways in the Treasure Coast,” said Rep. Murphy. “This legislation provides additional financial resources to directly address the challenges we continue to face in the Indian River Lagoon. I appreciate the House’s bipartisan work on this effort and urge the Senate to quickly take up this measure.”

In addition to providing strong funding for base NEP grants, the Posey-Murphy plan directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prioritize funding to provide additional awards for estuaries that are experiencing urgent and challenging ecological problems. Some problems include: sea grass loss, reoccurring harmful algal blooms and invasive exotic species or jellyfish proliferation. These awards would be provided on a competitive basis and would be funded through funds already authorized for the NEP program. The base bill also secures higher levels of funding for each estuary’s base grant.

Under H.R. 944, the National Estuary Program is reauthorized for Fiscal Years 2016-2020 for $27 million. The Posey-Murphy plan makes 15% of appropriated funds available for the additional competitive awards to estuaries with urgent needs. The bill also gives direction to the EPA to ensure that no less than 80% of the funding is reserved for estuary base grants.

The National Estuary Program, which enjoys broad bipartisan support, was created in the 1987 Clean Water Act Amendments. It is run through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect and restore water quality and ensure ecological health of estuaries of national significance. There are 28 “estuaries of national significance” that span multiple states and congressional districts all over the country. Each estuary uses local input and local priorities to create a management plan that addresses the issues of water quality and ecological health.

Click here to view original source »


Experts tie hurricane changes to climate change

TAMPA — Climate change may be triggering an evolution in hurricanes, with some researchers predicting the violent storms could move farther north, out of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, where they have threatened coastlines for centuries.

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean begins Monday, and forecasters are predicting a relatively quiet season. They say three hurricanes are expected over the next six months, and only one will turn into a major hurricane.

Florida hasn’t been hit by a hurricane in a decade, and researchers are increasingly pointing to climate change as a potential factor.

There is a consensus among atmospheric researchers studying the connection between global warming and hurricanes that centuries- old patterns may be shifting, said Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“There are a few things we agree on,” he said, “and a few things we don’t know much about.”

He said researchers generally agree that the frequency of high-intensity storms, Category 3, 4 and 5, will increase as the planet warms. “By how much? There’s a lot of uncertainty,” he said.

The second generally accepted theory is that with rising sea levels, storm surge could become more of a threat than wind. “The sea level is going up and will continue to go up,” he said.

Rain also is expected to increase during hurricanes, he said. “It’s in widespread agreement that as you warm the climate, hurricanes will rain a lot more.”

Other theories of how climate change affects hurricane activity are still being researched, he said, and there is some disagreement among scientists. One is the frequency of less intense hurricanes, the Category 1 and 2 storms.

Continued in The Tampa Tribune »

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