A SELECTION OF GULF OF MEXICO SEA GRANT FISHERIES EXTENSION PROGRAM EFFORTS
Texas • Louisiana • Mississippi-Alabama • Florida
Questions regarding the above programs or other topics currently being addressed by the respective Sea Grant Extension Programs can be directed to:
Texas Sea Grant
Report reveals Hurricane Ike-related damage to the oyster industry and ecosystem
Soon after Hurricane Ike made landfall, requests were made for accurate damage assessments of the heavily impacted Galveston Bay oyster fishery and its reef ecosystems. Three weeks after landfall, faculty with the Texas A&M University system began assessing damages to the assets controlled by oyster-dependent firms across the Galveston Bay system. Operators quickly committed to this effort. Damage estimates are based on 62 percent of all firms and 74 percent of leased acreage so an accurate portrayal has been created. The completed damage estimate reports provided an accurate portrayal of the work required for industry to regain its “pre-Ike” footing. In addition, the report addresses the importance of the Galveston Bay system to the U.S. eastern oyster industry, outlines the numerous environmental benefits oyster reefs contribute to this multiple-use estuary, reports on the damage across the oyster-dependent industry and recommends various steps to restore the benefits a thriving reef complex provides to estuarine ecosystems. The full report can be found at http://texas-sea-grant.tamu.edu.
Fuel-saving shrimp trawl technology transferred
For Gulf shrimp trawlers, fuel costs are a major operating expense. Reducing operating expenses through reductions in fuel consumption will improve vessel profitability, thus buoying an industry struggling to compete with imports and high fuel prices. Efforts to evaluate and adapt new, fuel-conserving, trawl gear and get them adopted by the Gulf shrimp fleet through technology transfer are ongoing. To date, evaluations of new types of net webbing and trawl doors have resulted in 24 percent fuel savings on average. Efforts continue to export this technology beyond Texas to the rest of the Gulf and South Atlantic shrimp fishery. As a direct result of these outreach educational efforts, one shrimp fleet owner, upon noticing how much fuel he was burning compared to our cooperators’ fleet, has agreed to work the new Sustainable Fisheries loan program to acquire the trawl gear at 50 percent of the cost. These direct observations of our fuel-saving have resulted in demonstration projects showcasing technology transfer into Bon Secour, Ala.
By-catch reduction shrimp trawl technology transferred
Sea Grant personnel have transferred new by-catch reduction device (BRD) designs and technology to meet the new National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) requirements for finfish exclusion without the subsequent loss of shrimp. During the reporting period, 15 cooperating vessels were rigged with the new Modified Jones-Davis BRD, including boats in Galveston, Freeport and Bolivar areas. Cooperators in Bon Secour, Ala., also evaluated the newly mandated BRDs. After testing and evaluations were concluded, many shrimp fishermen opted for the new Modified Jones-Davis BRD over the traditional fish-eye. The NMFS branch in Pascagoula, Miss., has endorsed Sea Grant's efforts on BRD work and research findings.
Sustainable seafood partnership efforts result in contract
The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) was formed in order to bring together fishermen, seafood buyers and other fishery experts to explore new and innovative ways to move the valuable and important fishery toward sustainability. Texas Sea Grant faculty members have been working with industry and national conservation group representatives in order to ensure wild-caught shrimp producers receive MSC labeling. In August, a shrimp processor from Freeport, Texas, signed an agreement with “Clean Fish” (www.cleanfish.com) to begin marketing their product. This pilot project offers the opportunity of expanded markets and higher dock-side prices.
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Louisiana Sea Grant
Fishing gear modernization program
A grant-funded program is under development to provide funds for pre-determined types of fishing and refrigeration equipment used by commercial fishers to allow the industry to modernize in order to compete in highly competitive global markets. The program will benefit fisheries by either (a) providing gear that lowers production costs by increasing efficiency; (b) increasing the quality of what is caught and brought on board thereby increasing market price for products, and/or (c) reducing environmental impact or carbon footprint. A uniform market standard for Premium Grade Louisiana White and Brown Shrimp is also under development.
Catch share questions
Given the recent attention to the use of catch shares in rebuilding fisheries, Louisiana Sea Grant has developed information on this type of fishery management for distribution by several print and electronic formats (including an interactive Web forum). This effort is intended to be descriptive rather than prescriptive, with the goal of facilitating the progression of well-informed discussions.
Direct seafood marketing
Louisiana Sea Grant is working with the Twin Parish Port Commission of Delcambre to launch a direct marketing seafood program as a focused effort to revitalize the local fishing industry in Iberia and Vermilion parishes and the Port of Delcambre. The project is designed to put seafood consumers directly in touch with local producers of wild caught shrimp, crabs, finfish and other seafood products. Direct sales of seafood will allow opportunities for new markets and better prices to the fishermen as well as more high-quality fresh seafood products for the consumer. Research shows that tremendous direct marketing opportunities exist in the Acadiana region which includes Lafayette, New Iberia, Abbeville and nearby communities. This direct marketing program will include extensive professional marketing efforts by the Port Commission. A state of the art Internet Web site is being developed to showcase local producers and products. The Web site will allow consumers to make direct personal contact with individual producers to place orders for seafood. The Port of Delcambre is also developing waterfront locations for fishermen to dock and sell their products.
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Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant
Electronic logbook program enhancement for the Northern Gulf shrimp fleet
In collaboration with LGL Ecological Research Associates, efforts were undertaken to expand the Gulf-wide use of electronic logbook technology by the offshore shrimp fleet. The overall goal is to develop direct measures of fishing effort that could replace modeled estimates of effort that had historically been used by the regulatory agencies to monitor red snapper by-catch in the shrimping industry. We improved the data available to fisheries managers on the fishing effort of the Northern Gulf shrimp fleet by recruiting 74 shrimp vessels in Mississippi and Alabama to participate in electronic logbook program. Sea Grant outreach specialists install and maintain the devices and arrange to meet the vessels to retrieve data when they come to port to unload.
Sea Grant reduces operating costs for Mississippi and Alabama shrimpers
Research and technology transfer regarding the use of Sapphire™ trawl webbing has shown that shrimpers can reduce fuel consumption between 1 and 2 gallons per hour by switching to the new webbing. This work was done in collaboration with the Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation, Inc. and Texas Sea Grant. In 2009, 11 boats adopted the practice leading to conservative estimates of over $75 per day savings per boat. As diesel fuel prices increase, the savings increase proportionately.
Oyster Gardening in Mobile Bay
Through Sea Grant’s continued involvement in the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program, volunteer gardeners increased production of restoration oysters by 70 percent in 2008. Thirty-four gardeners each grew 1,700 oysters for planting on restoration reefs, for a total of 59,000 oysters. In 2009, volunteers grew about 44,000 oysters at 44 gardening sites. Production dropped somewhat in 2009 due to the effects of Hurricane Ida. Volunteers maintain juvenile oysters (spat) in submerged cages by cleaning the cages about once a week during the summer months and removing any predators, such as blue crabs and oyster drills, from the cage. The new Adopt-A-Garden Program allows people who do not own waterfront property to participate in oyster gardening. For $25 a year, participants will receive a monthly newsletter and be able to follow their oysters as they grow. Proceeds support science research programs in area schools. The oyster gardening program is sponsored by Mobile Bay National Estuary Program in cooperation with Auburn University and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. It teaches students and adults about the ecological and economical roles oysters play in Mobile Bay.
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Florida Sea Grant
2010 Florida Artificial Reef Summit
Florida Sea Grant and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission collaborated to host the 2010 Florida Artificial Reef Summit in January in Cocoa Beach, Fla. More than 180 participants representing local, state, and federal government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, private businesses, academia and private citizen groups attended the three-day event. The summit included 40 invited and contributed presentations, 24 poster presentations and 24 sponsors. Sessions addressed fisheries management applications, adaptive management strategies, state and local reef program updates, regulatory and permitting updates, Ships to Reefs program overview and citizen involvement and monitoring programs. In returned surveys, 89 percent or attendees indicated they agreed or strongly agreed the summit improved their knowledge and understanding of current artificial reef issues in the state, and 91percent agreed or strongly agreed that they plan to apply what they learned at the summit to their artificial-reef-related work. A six-month follow up survey is planned to document the extent to which participants have utilized summit resources.
Engaging recreational Hispanic fishermen in Southwest Florida
Hispanics represent a growing percentage of the coastal population in Southwest Florida, and they have not always been reached by traditional extension outreach and education efforts. Florida Sea Grant faculty in collaboration with University of Florida researchers recently conducted a series of focus groups in Fort Myers and Naples to better understand the educational needs of Hispanic recreational fishermen. The focus groups were conducted in Spanish and the anglers, who all had been in Florida 10 years or less, were recruited using local networks. Discussions centered around the Hispanic community’s general fishing practices, knowledge of and compliance with fishing regulations, sources of fishing information and strategies to extend outreach opportunities to this segment of the population. Several consistent themes emerged from the meetings including a general lack of understanding about state fishing regulations and where to access this information, confusion about who needs a fishing license and consequences of not having one and a strong interest in receiving more fishing-related information especially through bilingual publications and formal trainings. Currently, agents are collaborating with partners, such as the local school system to develop future outreach programs that meet the identified needs of this traditionally underserved audience.
Sustainable fishing methods
Florida Sea Grant has maintained a continued effort to create an awareness among recreational anglers of the benefits of utilizing release techniques that help to reduce release mortality. Of particular interest has been educational programs conducted on the use of 1) venting tools for reef fish releases, 2) circle hooks, 3) boat-side release tools and 4) general catch and release practices. Numerous workshops/presentations have been conducted, and a variety of educational materials developed. The programs coincided with the recent passage of federal law concerning the use of sustainable fishing methods for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The effort received financial support from UF IFAS, as well as ongoing support from Florida Sea Grant Fisheries Extension Enhancement funds. A Web site is currently available that provides a wide variety of information regarding the use of sustainable fishing methods (http://catchandrelease.org).
Mislabeling of grouper products in Florida markets
One of the most contentious issues in the Gulf-region seafood market is the rampant mislabeling of cheaper finfish products as “grouper.” The widespread occurrence of this form of economic fraud prompted the state of Florida to launch a statewide “sting” operation, which received massive media coverage. This issue led regional commercial fisheries groups to ask for assistance in developing a product integrity program regarding species identification and product source. The Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation funded an effort to 1) determine the level of awareness of the problem within the general public, 2) to what extent the problem has changed the household’s seafood consumption patterns, 3) identify the features of an integrity program that would alleviate concerns product ID and source and 4) assess consumer willingness to pay for such a program. A telephone survey, developed in conjunction with an industry steering committee, was conducted with 400 Florida households. The findings suggest a general awareness of the problem within Florida, which has changed consumption patterns, and has created a willingness to pay for a greater level of assurance with regard to grouper purchases both at-home and in the restaurant setting.
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