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Start of stone crab season in Cortez is worst in recent memory

To harvest the 1,200 pounds of stone crab for the seventh annual Cortez Stone Crab & Music Festival, which continues Sunday, Banyas had to go as far north as Crystal River and Hernando Beach.

“Except for the blue crab, nothing you’re eating here this weekend is local, I can tell you that,” said Banyas, who is also the founder of the festival.

Jim Gowlett, manager of Star Fish Company Market and Restaurant in Cortez, says a pound of medium claws is going for $15-18 a pound wholesale. He expects the prices to rise throughout the season as fishermen are forced to go farther north. Gowlett says Star Fish is charging retail customers about $21 for that same pound of claws, up a few dollars from this time last year.

To harvest the 1,200 pounds of stone crab for the seventh annual Cortez Stone Crab & Music Festival, which continues Sunday, Banyas had to go as far north as Crystal River and Hernando Beach.

“Except for the blue crab, nothing you’re eating here this weekend is local, I can tell you that,” said Banyas, who is also the founder of the festival.

Jim Gowlett, manager of Star Fish Company Market and Restaurant in Cortez, says a pound of medium claws is going for $15-18 a pound wholesale. He expects the prices to rise throughout the season as fishermen are forced to go farther north. Gowlett says Star Fish is charging retail customers about $21 for that same pound of claws, up a few dollars from this time last year.

Related content Swordfish Grill & Tiki Bar 7th Annual Cortez Stone Crab & Music Festival It’s been a tumultuous summer for Florida. The stone crab season opened Oct. 15 and runs through May 15. But lingering red tide, algae blooms, massive fish kills, and warm Gulf waters have all contributed to the slow start and poor harvest this year, Banyas said.

Phillip Gravinese, a post-doctoral researcher at Mote Marine Laboratory, told the Herald-Tribune in October that crabs near the shore and in shallower habitats exposed to the warmer water and high concentrations of red tide organism become stressed, stop eating and die.

SWFWMD aims to reduce risk of wildfires by performing prescribed fires

Setting prescribed fires in controlled settings can reduce the risk of wildfires burning out of control, as many Floridians witnessed during the state’s wildfire emergency last year. That’s why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) will be conducting prescribed burns in November and December in Manatee County.

  • The Southfork Tract is located north of State Road 62, 3 miles east of Saffold Road.
  • Myakka River-Flatford Swamp Preserve is located west of Wachula-Myakka Road, 2 miles north of State Road 70.
  • Gilley Creek is located between State Road 62 and 64, east of County Road 675 and Coker Prairie is located south of State Road 64. Both the Gilley Creek and Cocker Prairie properties are southeast of Parrish.

Approximately 400 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

Some major benefits of prescribed fire include:

  • Reducing overgrown plants, which decreases the risk of catastrophic wildfires
  • Promoting the growth of new, diverse plants
  • Maintaining the character and condition of wildlife habitat
  • Maintaining access for public recreation

The District conducts prescribed fires on approximately 30,000 acres each year. Click here to learn more about why igniting prescribed burns now prepares lands for the next wildfire season.

South Florida Company Addressing Algal Blooms With Plastic Beads

A South Florida environmental technology company has a plan to fight the state's blue-green algae problems with microscopic plastic beads.

Green Water Solution is one of four finalists for the George Barley Water Prize, a $10 million award started by the Everglades Foundation to address toxic algae blooms through new technologies. The prize is intended to fund a technology that can be used around the globe to reduce phosphorus contamination in water.

The CEO of the company, Frank Jochem, has been studying marine sciences and algal blooms for 25 years. He and the director of the George Barley Water Prize, Loren Parra, joined Sundial to talk about the technology.

Red tide, warm water slowing stone crab harvest

,p> A 130-mile long swath of red tide has shifted several times along the Southwest Florida coast, from Pinellas County to Collier County, for about a year.

Gravinese said Mote conducted an experiment from its docks near New Pass and in Sarasota Bay and found that crab mortality rates skyrocketed in stagnant water.

Jim Gowett, the assistant general manger at Star Fish Company market & Restaurant in Cortex fishing village, said warmer water in Manatee County is keeping crabs dormant. Crabber are going father into the Gulf or north to Crystal River for better luck.

"They are averaging about 2,000 pounds a day 70 miles north of us," Gowett said.

Coastal development, sea rise sent Hurricane Irma storm surge to more homes, study shows

MIAMI — Sea rise and development have put more Florida property at risk to hurricane storm surge flooding — about 43 percent more — according to a recent study that looked at Hurricane Irma’s effect with different sea levels.

NOAA Tidal gauges in Key West show that South Florida has seen about seven inches of sea level rise since the 1970s, which is part of the reason sunny day flooding has worsened in recent decades.

Bad news for beachgoers: Red tide levels stay on rise in Manatee, Sarasota counties

MANATEE - This week’s red tide report brings more bad news for Manatee waters.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said red tide levels were between 5 and 25 percent higher in Manatee County. Six of the agency’s 24 water samples this week indicated high concentrations of Karenia brevis algae.

Samples taken offshore of Anna Maria Island revealed concentrations of more than 1 million K. brevis cells per liter. Researchers also found high levels inshore along Cortez Beach, the Longboat Pass Boat ramp and Atlas Street.

Watershed groups have a positive impact on local water quality, study finds

Economists have found that in the United States, watershed groups have had a positive impact on their local water quality.

A new published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the first empirical evidence that nonprofit organizations can provide public goods, said Christian Langpap, an Oregon State University economist and study co-author with Laura Grant, an assistant professor of economics at Claremont McKenna College.

In economics, a public good is a commodity or service that individuals cannot be effectively excluded from using, and where use by one individual does not reduce availability to others. For these reasons, public goods can't be provided for profit and nonprofits can play an important role.

"Environmental nonprofit groups are assumed to provide public goods," said Langpap, an associate professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. "But until now that assumption has never been tested empirically. We determined that the presence of water groups in a watershed resulted in improved water quality and higher proportions of swimmable and fishable water bodies."

The presence and activity of watershed groups can impact water quality in various ways, including oversight and monitoring, direct actions such as organizing volunteers for cleanups or restoration, and indirect actions like advocacy and education.

The researchers' analysis combined data on water quality and watershed groups for 2,150 watersheds in the continental United States from 1996 to 2008. The number of watershed groups across the lower 48 tripled during this period, from 500 to 1,500.

Cooler weather won't help with red tide, but season change could

SUNSET BEACH — It’s late October and the water is still that dark red tide color at some southern Pinellas County beaches.

Like many vacationers this year, Angie Smith and her family were concerned about the red tide.

"I can’t imagine that it would last that much longer just because it's been going on for so long," said daughter Ally Smith.

Luckily it wasn’t as bad as they thought and they’ve been able to enjoy their vacation at Treasure Island Beach.

But everyone can agree that this red tide has lasted a long time. Oceanographers from NOAA say that this algae bloom actually started last October in the Gulf before making its way to shore.

So what will make this toxic algae bloom disappear? NOAA says cold weather really has no impact, but season changes do.

Prevent red tide? Start with more wetlands, experts say

Three Democratic federal lawmakers will work toward increasing water quality monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico and creating more wetlands to clean water flowing into the Gulf and other waterways.

U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson crafted a preliminary action plan Wednesday after meeting with local scientists and business leaders about the ongoing impacts of red tide.

“Even though the tourism numbers have been up … boy, this could really set us back unless we work together to address the red tide,” Castor said during a roundtable discussion in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

Three scientists with varying areas of expertise all agreed: Red tide is a naturally occurring environmental phenomenon, but large blooms are likely fueled by warmer Gulf temperatures as the result of climate change and, possibly, by nutrient runoff from agriculture.

Holmes Beach commission pushes for fix to polluted Spring Lake

Holmes Beach commissioners want to remediate the highly toxic Spring Lake.

But whether the water body between 68th and 70th streets should return to fresh water origins or a subsequently transformed saltwater ecosystem will be studied next.

At an Oct. 9 work session, city engineer Lynn Burnett called the ammonia levels “highly toxic” and agreed with a Sept. 5 report from city consultant Aquatic Systems Lake & Wetland Services of Pompano to reclaim a fresh water ecosystem.

But after a neighbor spoke of the lake’s past saltwater success, Burnett called for a second study from the consultant.

Burnett had first agreed with ASLWS findings and recommended the city dredge “the junk off the bottom,” add aeration, monitor and let a fresh water lake return to “function and thrive.”