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Date of Issue: March 02, 2006

Sandscript

We love those little shrimpies, and hate those evil weevils

If the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival has served to whet your appetite for fresh Florida seafood, here's some information for you.

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture Marketing, shrimp is the No. 1 seafood choice among U.S. consumers. "The consumption per person in 2004 was 4.2 pounds. Like Bubba in the Forrest Gump movie, we apparently like it many different ways, from sushi to casseroles."

Apparently Florida fishers caught about 28 million pounds in 2004, enough to meet that average consumption rate for 6.7 million people.

As to shrimp trivia, they have "five pairs of legs for walking and five for swimming. In addition to sensory antennas, they have compound eyes so they can seek out their diet of small plants and animals."

The agriculture experts also said the average life cycle of a shrimp in the wild is 13 months or less. Female shrimp lay over 1,000 eggs, which are attached to its swimming legs. Young shrimp are carried by currents into coastal estuaries to mature.

"Although most of us think of the types of shrimp in relation to size - small, medium, large and jumbo - there are over 2,000 different species worldwide," according to the agriculture department. "In Florida, there are five shrimp species of commercial value in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. They include brown, pink, white, royal red and rock. The majority of the shrimp harvested in Florida are the pink species.

"Some shrimp can be caught during the day, but the dominant pinks in Florida can only be caught at night when the moon is not full. This is because pink shrimp are skittish and they hide from their predators in the sand when it is bright. Commercial shrimpers seeking pink shrimp may have to live for two to three weeks on their boats while they trawl for their catch."

Shrimp are sold by count per pound. Less than 20 per pound are jumbos; 20-30 are large, 30-40 medium, and more than 40 per pound are considered small.

Fresh shrimp kept in the coldest part of your refrigerator will last about two days. Frozen, cooked shrimp are good for about a year - if you can stand to leave them there that long.

If you're looking for some new recipes for shrimp, try the state's Web sites: www.fl-seafood.com or www.WildFloridaShrimp.com. Enjoy!

 

Evil weevils attack!

In the battle of good bugs versus bad, the bad guys are winning.

The battleground: Bromeliads, also referred to as air plants.

Bromeliads are a popular garden plant, and are found in the wilds of Florida in trees and on the ground. They have flower spikes ever year or so that run the gamut of colors - pink, red, coral, even blue and yellow. There are something like 16 species found in Florida, with 10 on the various state or federal endangered or threatened lists.

And a lot of the endangerment or threat is coming from the evil weevils.

There are 60,000 known species of weevil in the world. Some are good to bromeliads. The evil species, which showed up in 1989, lays eggs in the heart of the air plant. The weevil larvae eat the core of the plant and it dies. The weevils then move on and repeat the process.

According to a Daytona Beach News-Journal report, the University of Florida's Department of Entomology started working on a means to curb the growth of the evil weevil, which doesn't appear to have any natural predators in this part of the world. Pesticides will kill the critter, and that approach works in a garden setting, but to spray toxins in the wild would also kill an unknown number of other good bugs and would cost zillions of dollars.

So the researchers have been working to bring in good bugs that want to eat the bad bugs.

After years of study, a scientist in Honduras found something that seemed to be eating the evil weevils, a fly that had not yet been discovered by science. They brought the fly to the States, began tests and everything worked. The flies only ate the evil weevil. Then scientific disaster "hit the fan" when the flies died due to a glitch in the air circulation system in the sealed lab.

Seven years later, the flies are again flourishing, and researchers are starting the permit process to allow their release into the wild to do battle against the evil weevil. The program could start by the end of the year, spelling the end of the evil weevil - or so it is hoped.

It's none too soon. Bromeliad growers throughout the state have helped fund the program almost from its inception. Believe me, there are few things more sad in the plant world than to see a 5-foot-diameter, 10-year-old plant rot from the inside because of an evil weevil infestation.

Perhaps the tide of the battle of the bugs isn't lost after all to the forces of the dark side.

 

Big sink this May?

The largest artificial reef in U.S. waters is scheduled to be created this May. Again.

The USS Oriskany, an 888-foot-long aircraft carrier, is scheduled to be scuttled in the Gulf of Mexico about 22 miles off Pensacola this spring. The vessel was decommissioned and determined to be used as a fish-collection point several years ago when permitting and weather problems arose and stymied the scuttle operation.

Now, the U.S. Navy plans to have the ship towed from Texas to Pensacola in early March, with the "big sink" planned for mid-May.

Everything was good to go for a November 2004 blast-down. Remember 2004? Four hurricanes? The Navy towed the vessel to safe moorings in Texas for the duration.

Then the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held up on permits for the sinking due to the presence of PCBs on board, a toxic chemical. After lots of debate, it was finally decided that although the 700 pounds of PCBs weren't a good thing, it wasn't all that bad, and the EPA gave its blessing.

Pensacola, with its huge recreational diving and fishing industries, has been chomping at the bit to get the big ship on the bottom. It is the largest such sinking ever in American waters, although there is another flattop sunk in the Southwest Pacific.

The Navy hopes to have 20 more decommissioned ships join the Oriskany's ranks on the bottom over the next few years, but hopefully not at its cost.

The Navy will spend something like $12.75 million to sink the aircraft carrier, more than four times the budget.

For that kind of price, it had better make a real, real pretty artificial reef.

 

Sandscript factoid

The fly-versus-evil weevil battle is called biological control by scientists. It's a simple concept: You take a good thing and use it to kill a bad one.

There is a phrase that's often used for the process that's not as scientific, though - backfiring. The good thing doesn't always just eat the bad.

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