by Brittany Hall-Scharf
Florida Sea Grant, joined by community and scientific organizations, businesses, middle school students and committed individuals took special care of our coast in 2017. From marine life research and protection to coastal clean-up and shoreline enhancement, these key projects propel and protect Florida’s Adventure Coast into the future.
Charter Fishermen along Florida’s Adventure Coast partner with the University of Florida’s Nature Biological Station and Florida Sea Grant on a Pioneer Snook Study. The project aims to investigate whether snook that have moved further north in the Gulf of Mexico are genetically different than their southern populations. Local Charters contributing are: Chase N’ Tails Fishing Charters (Capt. Josh Fritz), Live Action Fishing Charters (Capt. Jamie Smith), and Southern Breeze Charters (Capt. David Frazier).
Florida Sea Grant, UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County has recently partnered with the Loggerhead Marine Life Center to expand the Responsible Pier Initiative to Hernando County. Since its launch in 2013, the program has aided in the rescue of over 300 turtles and the removal of over 4,000 pounds of marine debris. Over 53 piers spanning from Texas to Virginia, including Puerto Rico, have joined this program.
Two workshops were held in Hernando County where groups of First Responders were trained by Demi Fox and Brittany Hall-Scharf to properly assist with the rescue of sea turtles. Immediately following the training, responders assisted with the installation of sea turtle rescue signage and monofilament tubes at the Bayport Park boat ramp, Jenkins Creek fishing pier, Hernando Beach Boat Ramp and Linda Pedersen Park. Additional installation of sea turtle signage and monofilament tubes are scheduled for Bayport Park Fishing Pier and Pine Island.
The signage was installed to assist the public with the rescue of sea turtles if an entanglement does occur; First Responders will also be available, if needed, throughout the coastal community. Monofilament tubes will be maintained by local citizen scientists and the contents will be recycled.
On September 19th, 2017, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Stock Enhancement Research Facility (SERF) donated 1,000 plugs of smooth cord grass to kick off Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology’s (GCA) marsh nursery project. This donation marked the 20thanniversary of SERF’s first marsh grass donation and grasses raised in this nursery will be used in future restoration projects throughout Florida’s Adventure Coast.
Once the donation arrived at GCA, Shawn Walker’s 7th grade science class jumped to work transplanting the grasses into their new nursery. Despite the hot September sun, the students eagerly took turns separating plugs, creating the right consistency of mud, and planting the grasses in trays. In just two days, Mr. Walker’s class had their new nursery up and running.
Prior to school starting, Florida Sea Grant, UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County, Hernando County Master Gardeners, and volunteers constructed the 16’ x 16’ marsh nursery on GCA’s property in just one day. Additional support and funding for this project was provided by Hernando Environmental Land Protectors, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection Coastal Partnership Initiative, and the Mermaid Chase Paddling Race.
Our Sea Grant Agent, Brittany Hall-Scharf, and Financial and Consumer Sciences Agent, Scott Taylor, will be working closely with Mr. Walker to incorporate activities that will introduce the students to the importance of their community’s coastal ecosystems. The students will also learn basic water quality skills by monitoring while caring for the nursery. At the end of the school year, a field trip to the coast will be arranged for the students to then plant.
Florida Sea Grant and University of Florida Faculty partnered with Hernando County Aquatic Serviceson an oyster enhancement project in Hernando County. We will be looking for volunteers to assist with deployment in the upcoming months.
On October 21, 2017, Florida Sea Grant and UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County partnered with Hernando County Government (Storm water and Environmental Lands Specialist) for a Coastal Cleanup. During this cleanup, 36 volunteers collected 40 bags of trash along Hernando County’s coast. Volunteers logged items as they collected the trash. The top five items collected were: Cigarette Butts (20%), Plastic Pieces (11%), Beverage Cans (9%), Glass Bottles (8%), and Plastic Bottles (7%). These top five items accounted for 55% of the trash collected. Of course, we had some odd items that were found. These included: couch cushion, pool float, car bumper, baby pacifier and a hospital band.
Beautiful weather greeted the first annual Mermaid Chase Paddling Race in April, a fundraiser for coastal and marine projects. Click the image to watch contestants navigate the newly opened Bayport – Linda Pedersen Paddling Trail.
Author: Brittany Hall-Scharf
Brittany Hall-Scharf is Hernando County’s Florida Sea Grant Agent with the UF/IFAS Extension Office. Within her new role, Hall-Scharf will be working on many coastal and marine programs to address issues related to fisheries, coastal habitats, water quality and sustainable economic resource activities. Hall-Scharf was a former fisheries biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and an adjunct professor for the University of Tampa. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biological Science from Florida State University, a Marine Science Certificate from Florida State University and a Master of Science in Biological Oceanography from the University of South Florida.