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Date of Issue: July 19, 2007

Sandscript

Green thoughts for Florida, plus looming death of evil weevil

Just call us all green.

Gov. Charlie Crist signed executive orders last week that call for a whole slew of reductions in emissions that are targeted to reduce global warming. His actions have put him at odds with his Republican Party buds, but are being embraced by eco-conscience folks as a good start to deal with global warming.

Crist held a two-day global warming conference in Miami last week, which included California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other notable “green” people.

Highlights of the meetings included a whole slew of actions ordered by Crist, but in a sliding scale as far as a timeline is concerned.

For example, greenhouse gasses -the fossil fuel emissions that our cars, power plants and other things that create power produce - have to be reduced to the year 2000 level, but not until the year 2017. The mandated drop continues to 1990 levels by 2025, and so forth, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Total reduction of greenhouse gasses is targeted to be 40 percent by the year 2025.

Other features of the plan includes a change in building codes to produce housing that is 15 percent more fuel-efficient by 2009, state utilities to use more renewable sources of power, better fuel efficiency of state vehicles, creation of a new board called the Florida Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change as well as an active lobby of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to create stricter rules to deal with global warming.

What Crist and Schwarzenegger are striving for is more non-invasive forms of power for Florida and California. Solar power is touted, as is wind-driven power plants and, while wind isn’t a real viable option in the Sunshine State, solar is a good idea.

And here’s a good quote from the “Governator” of California: “We have to say ‘hasta la vista, baby,’ to greenhouse gasses.”

 

Help!

Here’s a simple plea from biologists that anglers can do to help aid in data gathering: give a call when you catch a snook or trout that is tagged.

According to the Florida Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, “A study is currently under way around Fort Desoto Park in Tampa Bay to observe the spawning behavior of common snook and spotted sea trout. Sixty fish, 30 snook and 30 sea trout, have been tagged with sonic tags to monitor their travels in order to better understand the spawning patterns of individual fish. These tags have been surgically implanted in the belly of the fish. Anglers will not see the implanted sonic tag, but may notice sutures or a scar pattern along the abdomen from the placement of the sonic tag. Tagged fish can usually be identified by a visible dart tag placed under the dorsal fin.”

Anglers catching a tagged snook or sea trout in the Fort Desoto area can report the catch to FWRI through the FWC Tag Hotline.

Call toll free 1-800-367-4461.

E-mail reports to tagreturn@MyFWC.com

Anglers are asked to include in the report the tag number found on the dart tag; fish length; capture date, location and time; and your name, address, phone number and e-mail.

For your effort, FWRI will send you a nifty hat.

“Although anglers are encouraged to release all tagged fish, if a fish is harvested, please leave the internal organs intact and a biologist will pick up the carcass and the sonic tag,” according to the biologists.

Give these guys a hand and help gather further knowledge of our fishy friends.

 

Don’t we know this?

Sandscript readers have long read that a day on the water that includes an “interaction” via vessel and manatee is generally a bad day on the water. Now, it seems that the University of Florida has found that more and more of these interactions are causing harm to our state marine mammal.

“Caring but careless boaters are the greatest threat to Florida’s manatees, according to a new University of Florida study that caught more than half of boat drivers speeding through conservation zones despite their professed support for the endangered animals,” according to a news release from UF.

“Although boaters across the board had strong conservation attitudes and thought manatees were worth saving, they created one of the biggest threats to manatees by not following the speed limit,” said John Jett, who did the study for his doctoral dissertation in UF’s department of tourism, recreation and sports management.

“Hurricanes, cold stress, red tide poisoning and a variety of other maladies threaten manatees, but by far their greatest danger is from watercraft strikes, which account for about a quarter of Florida manatee deaths,” Jett said.

Jett did most of his research in Volusia County last summer, where at least 30 manatees were struck and killed by boats since 2000.

He did some high-tech and low-tech research upon which his study was based: “Jett used a stopwatch and laser rangefinder to determine the speeds of 1,669 boats traveling between two points,” according to the report. “By recording boat registration numbers he was able to follow up with mail surveys to the same boat operators, asking about their speeds and attitudes toward manatee conservation. An overwhelming majority of the 236 people who responded - 84 percent - said they fully complied with speed limits in manatee zones during their most recent boating experience, but Jett’s observations showed that only 45 percent did so.

“Yet survey results revealed that 71 percent agreed manatees were worth saving despite the need for regulations, and 81 percent expressed support for Florida’s boating rules and regulations.”

And get this: “Of those boaters who admitted exceeding the speed limit, the top reason given was not being able to read the signs clearly, followed by hurrying to get out of the rain,” the study found.

Oh, please. 

Here’s something else: “The study also found operators of rental boats were more prone to follow the speed limit than people who owned their boats.

Jay Gorzelany, senior biologist at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, said “Jett’s research is important because learning more about the issue will likely lead to better educated boaters. It’s not only a matter of putting up speed zones. We need to try to evaluate current management practices and come up with solutions for how to improve compliance, which will ultimately result in a reduction of collisions and risk to manatees from boats.”

 

Evil weevil update

I live in a bromeliad jungle. The air plants are all over the ground, in the trees, on the fence - everywhere.

However, there has been an invasive critter, which University of Florida scientists have been fighting for years, called the “evil weevil” that has been munching on the plants with great abandon.

Bromeliad lovers should take heart, though, because there’s another critter that seems to love the evil weevil and is starting to munch on it.

According to a UF release, “The free ride is almost over for the ‘evil weevil’ destroying Florida’s native bromeliads. Since 1989, the invasive insect has wreaked havoc on the state’s airplants, unchecked by natural enemies. But in the next few days, researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will release a parasitic fly that kills the weevil’s larvae and could help save the tree-dwelling plants, many threatened or endangered.”

It seems that “50 adult flies will be set free at Northwest Equestrian Park in Hillsborough County, where the Mexican bromeliad weevil is attacking four species of airplant unique to Florida,” according to UF biologists.

Ron Cave is heading up the project. He’s an assistant professor of entomology with the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.

“It’s been a long haul,” Cave said. “We’ve nurtured this thing and studied and lived with it so intimately that to finally get it out there in the wild and see what it can do and if it can really help solve a problem, that’s what we’ve all been shooting for.”

The “killer” bug was found in Honduras by Cave in 1993. It’s the first release of an organism reared at UF’s Biological Control Research and Containment Laboratory in Fort Pierce.

The weevil, native to Mexico and Guatemala, became established in Florida in 1989 when it arrived in Fort Lauderdale, possibly in a shipment of Mexican bromeliads.

So how bad is the evil weevil? “In Myakka River State Park, the weevil has nearly eliminated several species of bromeliads, including the endangered giant airplant, cardinal airplant and twisted airplant,” according to the University of Florida.

Die, you miserable little weevil, die!

 

Sandscript factoid

This is a good one from Gov. Swarzenegger from the Miami eco-summit.

According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, he was asked how he liked Florida. He said he loved Florida, always has.

So you’ll come back?

“I’ll be back,” he said, adding, “People usually pay for that line.”

Then he said it again.

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