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Date of Issue: June 22, 2006

Sandscript

Manatee downlisting approved, challenge issued on ruling

mangrove pic
Gall is a black-colored fungus that grows on limbs and trunks of mangroves. It doesn't seem to harm the tree, but does appear to make the limb or trunk more susceptible to breaking in high winds. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
Unsurprisingly, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission members unanimously voted to downlist manatees from “endangered” to “threatened.” The same status change was made for bald eagles, while gopher tortoises and Panama City crawfish saw a reversal - an enhancement of their listings.

A group of 17 environmental organizations have challenged the manatee status change, saying the action by FWC is flawed.

Next up is drafting of management plans for each species. Those plans should be ready for review by early next year.

There are something like 3,000 manatees roaming Florida’s waters. Last year, about 400 died, 80 from collisions with boats. It was the second-highest boat mortality rate for sea cows on record, giving ammunition to the environmentalist’s argument that the downlisting was in error.

 

Snook changes

The FWC also bumped up the slot limit for snook last week by an inch. Keeper linesiders are now 27 to 34 inches in length, or will be when the season reopens in September.

There is also a measuring change that will go into effect this fall. “That regulation requires snook to be measured by determining the straight-line distance from the most forward point of the head with the mouth closed, to the farthest tip of the tail with the tail compressed or squeezed together, while the fish is lying on its side,” according to the FWC.

The wildlife regulators estimate the snook change will decrease snook harvest 22 percent in the Gulf of Mexico and 12 percent in the Atlantic Ocean.

Just as a reminder, FWC stated that “The harvest of snook is prohibited from Dec. 15 through Jan. 31 statewide and from June through August on Florida’s Atlantic coast.

“On the Gulf Coast and waters of Monroe County and Everglades National Park, snook harvest is not allowed from May through August. At all other times, a recreational daily bag limit of two snook per person applies on the Atlantic coast; the limit on the Gulf Coast and waters of Monroe County and Everglades National

Park is one snook daily per person. Licensed saltwater anglers must purchase a $2 permit. Snatch-hooking and spearing snook are prohibited, and it is illegal to buy or sell snook.”

 

Iguana hell

Poor Boca Grande. Long an enclave for the rich and famous - the whole Bush family tends to vacation there during the Christmas holidays - the small barrier island that straddles Charlotte and Lee counties is also home to a burgeoning population of iguanas.

In fact, black spiny-tail iguanas outnumber fulltime residents there 10-fold, with a population of the four-legged creatures estimated at 10,000.

The critters face off pedestrians and golf-cart riders on the sidewalks, munch through the luxurious landscaping and burrow into the sand dunes. They also ravage the sea turtle nests on the island, devouring eggs like popcorn.

Boca Grande residents said enough is enough earlier this year and begged for something to be done. Lee County came up with a special taxing district for the island to curb the population boom of the lizards, which can grow up to 2 feet in length.

But how to rid the island of the iguanas?

According to a report in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, iguana eradication isn’t all that quick or easy.

Sure, you can shoot them, as some residents have proudly proclaimed they are doing, but shooting firearms can be dangerous.

Sure, residents and businesses could trap the reptiles, but animal cruelty laws require the critters be out of the trap within 24 hours. What to do with them? Where to put them? Would they establish an iguana jail?

No, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission advised, the best bet is to get professional trappers with the U.S. Department of

Agriculture involved in the proceedings, at a cost of upwards of $100,000.

And even at that expense, it is estimated that only about 80 percent of the big lizards would be trapped.

There’s still a lot of pondering going on around the watering holes in Boca Grande.

Iguanas are just another example of exotics gone wild in beautiful Florida.

 

Look at the gall of those mangroves!

Mangroves are those “walking trees” that line much of our shoreline in the bays. Red mangroves have red prop roots that act as home to fish and other marine life, and tend to accumulate sediment and cause islands to grow in size.

They are hardy trees, slow-growing but able to withstand hurricanes and other natural dangers.

They also have a problem with fungus, called gall, that forms big black boil-like clumps on the trunk.

There isn’t much research on mangrove gall. It doesn’t seem to impact the trees all that much, although the juncture of gall-mangrove does make the tree limb or trunk more prone to break in high winds.

Perhaps the limb breaks caused by gall serve as a means to add more detritus to the food chain for little guys to eat, then get eaten by bigger and bigger guys, and so on ...?

 

Sandscript factoid

The iguana population explosion in Boca Grande is believed to have started with the release of pets into the wilds in the 1970s. With no natural predators and an abundance of food, the population has soared over the years.

And yeah, they’re supposed to be edible, tasting like ... you guessed it ... chicken.

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