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Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys
March 2015
Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys
News & Notes


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Our dedicated Board of Directors, members and allies are committed to guaranteeing the future of our economically-precious treasures that are in critical danger here in the Keys. Please join us as a member, renew your membership or volunteer with us.

Impacts of Ghost Traps on Corals & Fisheries

What typically comes to mind when you think of the Florida Keys? Beautiful blue waters, coral reefs, fish, and other amazing marine life … but there’s something else lurking below: marine debris! In addition to metal cans, glass bottles and monofilament fishing line, lobster traps are the Florida Keys’ prominent type of marine debris.
A team of scientists from NOAA’s Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, FWC and Keys Marine Laboratory conducted surveys to identify and count lobster trap debris and other types of marine debris. These surveys consisted of two divers towed behind a boat to study underwater habitats throughout the Florida Keys.
Lost Lobster Trap
Lobster trap debris included wood slats, rope and cement weights used to sink traps. The scientists counted “ghost” fishing traps, which are lost but still able to catch and kill lobsters and other animals, as well as non-fishing traps that were found in various stages of breakdown. They estimated more than 85,000 ghost traps and more than 1 million pieces of traps and fishing gear junk is present on the sea floor in Florida Keys waters. To put these numbers into perspective, about 483,000 lobster traps are actively fished annually.
The study, which took place between 2007 and 2013, showed that each ghost trap in the FKNMS results in the deaths of ten spiny lobsters a year. Additionally, once traps stop ghost fishing, they may remain intact before degrading. In the Keys, spiny lobster traps are made out of wood and severely degrade within a year, as opposed to plastic or metal traps used in other areas. These intact derelict traps can move along the seabed and negatively impact sensitive habitats. Trap debris was found in a variety of environments such as seagrass, algae and sand, but the highest density of trap debris was observed in coral habitats, the most sensitive habitat in the Keys.
The accumulation of lobster trap debris in coral habitats -- a rarely targeted lobster fishing area -- suggests that wind and severe weather events play a role in moving traps, which ultimately harms corals, sponges or sea fans. Other research has indicated that many traps move continuously until finally becoming lodged in the shallow water areas where corals reside.
Trap loss is both an economic issue for fishermen and a source of damage to the environment. Causes of trap loss include boat propeller cut offs, hurricanes and theft. Harvest losses due to lobster mortality in ghost traps and missing gear are substantial sources of lost income for fishermen. Florida lobster fishermen already participate in a trap clean-up program that removes between 3,000 and 6,000 traps a year. Additionally, state and federal fishery managers have imposed an aggressive trap-reduction program starting in 1993 that has reduced the numbers by 100,000 traps since its inception. Still, debris removal efforts are expensive and cannot remove the debris as fast it accumulates. 
Spiny lobster and stone crab trap fishing generate $600 million a year to the Florida Keys economy. Download the PDF Summary of Results.

Pink Shrimp Rebound in Ecological Reserve

The Tortugas region, located approximately 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, has long supported a trawl fishery for pink shrimp. In 2001, FKNMS implemented the Tortugas Ecological Reserve (TER), which closed the area to fishing -- including shrimping -- allowing scientists to study the effects of zone protection on shrimp and other marine life.
To track shrimp populations, scientists compared pink shrimp biomass (or the amount of living matter) in trawl samples from inside Tortugas North (along the boundary of the reserve) and from the adjacent shelf area open to commercial trawling. Tortugas North includes extensive soft-bottom areas on the shelf surrounding Tortugas Bank.
Pink Shrimp Biomass Survey Results for Three Areas in 2005
Shrimp and other invertebrates living in the deep sediments of soft-bottom habitats are primary sources of food for a variety of reef fish that occupy the bank. Habitat structure and sediment characteristics of soft-bottom areas are thought to be affected by regular trawling for shrimp.
Research Results: Tortugas North appears to act as a refuge for the pink shrimp targeted by the shrimp fishery. In 2005, after four years of TER implementation, shrimp biomass was greater in the reserve than in the open fishing area. The boundary sampling area had intermediate shrimp biomass, demonstrating an expected gradient between full protection of the reserve and the fished area (see graph).
Since data collection did not begin until after reserve establishment, it is not certain if this gradient is due to spillover or migration from the reserve, or whether this gradient already existed. However, these data support the notion that soft-bottom communities appear to respond relatively quickly to the reduction of trawling pressure and that the abundance of pink shrimp (an important prey for fish) is relatively large within the reserve.

Free Fish ID Classes

filefishCourting Orange Filefish. Photo credit: Neal DeLoach (c)2010 Ever want to learn how to identify fish found in the Florida Keys? Join Allison & Carlos Estape at REEF Headquarters (MM 98.3) for interactive fish behavior & ID classes. Become a citizen-scientist by participating in REEF’s Volunteer Fish Survey Project where divers & snorkelers add their Fish ID Surveys to REEF’s database, which is used by scientists around the world.
Classes start at 7 p.m. Upcoming classes are Sea Basses on March 26 and Filefish on April 16. Visit or contact Allison at 305-794-5081 to learn more.


RETRACTED ARTICLE: First Observation of Spawning of Goliath Grouper

In last month’s newsletter, we reported that goliath grouper spawning had been observed for the first time (Jan. 20, 2015, Coral Reefs - Journal of the International Society for Reef Studies). Since then, that article has been retracted by its authors. Upon carrying out further analyses, the authors concluded that their images did not depict spawning.

Weather in Focus Photo Contest

Have a cool photo of this year's weather? Enter NOAA's "Weather in Focus" photo contest for a chance to be featured in a new Gateway to NOAA exhibit! This free photo contest recognizing photographers who have captured images of weather or the science used to forecast weather, water and climate. Anyone can enter, whether you're a professional photographer or snapped an awesome shot on your phone. Learn more and submit your photos by March 31!

Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization (Tax ID# 59-2443959).
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In This Issue:
Impacts of "Ghost" Traps
Tracking Pink Shrimp in 
Ecological Reserves
Free Fish ID Classes
Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

Please add your upcoming events to our online Florida Keys Environmental Calendar. This community-wide resource allows any organization or group to set up an account and post environmentally-related events.

Lower Keys Green Drinks
March 19, 5:30-7:30 pm, The Wharf Bar & Grill, MM 25.5, Summerland Key
Every third Thursday! This month's topic is "Seas Under Siege: The Battle of Marine Debris." Gabby Renchen from FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute will talk about the basics of marine debris and highlight local issues, such as debris from trap fisheries. She'll also address marine debris prevention and how we can help through cleanups and legal removal of lost traps. Social hour starts at 5:30, with the talk following at about 6:30.

Florida Keys Ocean Festival
April 4, 11 am–6 pm, Eco-Discovery Center, Key West
Bring the family and friends to celebrate our treasured Keys waters and environment! Free admission, free parking, food and drinks, kids activities, exhibits, silent auction, live music all day and lots of shopping with great local marine artists and vendors. Donations and proceeds benefit Mote Marine Laboratory’s Coral Reef Restoration and Research Programs. More information.

Membership Update
February 2015
Welcome! Thank you for your support!

New & Returning Members ($30-$199)

Nancy Gold



William Johnson

Richard Worthington

Bruce Frerer

Russell & Christina Fisher

Shirley Shumway

Lisa Carstarphen

John & Arlene Mirabella

Please support the companies that support the FKNMS and Sanctuary Friends.
Waste Management
Marathon Garbage Service
Keys Sanitary
Sunbelt Rentals
Cressi International
Marathon Jet Center
Centennial Bank
First State Bank
Little Palm Island Resort
The Weekly Newspapers
Conch Color
Papa's Pilar Rum
Ocean Reef Club
Ocean Reef Community Foundation
Diver's Direct
Marathon Boat Yard
Grader Mike Construction
Marathon Chamber of Commerce
A Deep Blue Dive Center
Paver Dave
Keys Contracting Services
Florida Keys Contractor’s Association
Bee Brothers
Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
Hard Rock Cafe
Hyatt Key West Resort & Spa
SHOR Restaurant
Westin's Bistro 245
Key West Express
FURY Water Adventures
Dunkin' Donuts
JSA Promotions

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Our Mission
Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys supports the Florida Keys and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) in the preservation, restoration, and sustainable use of our coral reef ecosystem, from the uplands to the deep sea. We focus on development of community support and advancement of public awareness, education, outreach and scientific research.

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Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys
Located at the at the historic Crane House at Crane Point Museum and Hammock
Mailing Address:
PO Box 504301
Marathon, Florida 33050
Tel: (305)
289-2288 Fax: (305) 289-2289

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Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys
PO Box 504301
Marathon, FL 33050

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