Mote Marine Laboratory scientists are conducting rapid assessment surveys of the status of common snook, a major Florida sport fish, in two areas that have experienced high fish mortality during the ongoing bloom of Florida red tide: Gasparilla Island and Little Gasparilla.
On Aug. 28 and 29, Mote scientists launched their survey efforts along the shore of Gasparilla Island.
Florida fisheries have been hit hard by the ongoing Florida red tide bloom, including adult snook present on their spawning grounds during summer months along Charlotte and Lee county beaches. Snook are an important part of Florida’s multi-species, saltwater, recreational fishery, which as a whole contributes $8 billion to the state’s economy.
Mote's rapid assessment of snook spawning stock, supported by emergency funds issued by the State of Florida this month, is needed to determine impacts to this important fishery and to develop more strategic stock enhancement actions to ensure recovery of this population as quickly as possible. Mote has advanced stock enhancement research with common snook for decades at Mote Aquaculture Research Park in eastern Sarasota County, developing sustainable recirculating aquaculture technology to breed and raise snook, while advancing strategies to release snook in an ecologically responsible manner and enhance their chances to survive and contribute to the fishery.
During the rapid assessment, Mote fisheries scientists and trained volunteers are catching, counting, measuring, tagging and releasing snook. Data collected this year will help scientists understand the recovery trajectory of the stock in future years.
From a boat along shore, Mote scientists and trained volunteers deploy a 600-foot beach seine net, enter the water and pull the net toward shore. Fish are funneled into the bag at the center of the net, allowing Mote scientists to count and measure snook, attempt to determine their sex, insert PIT tags (passive integrated transponders similar to the microchips used with pets), and release the fish. PIT tags hold key information about an individual fish and can be scanned to recover data if the fish is recaptured.