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Items filtered by date: March 2016
Monday, 25 April 2016 09:41

Nina, Pinta Come to Fort Myers

A piece of American history arrived in Naples last Tuesday, when replicas of the sailing vessels used by Christopher Columbus docked at Tin City Shops in Naples. The “Nina” and “Pinta”, originally named after Saints were built by hand and the Nina was reproduced without the use of any power tools and it is considered the most historically correct version of the original. The Santa Maria was the third ship used by Columbus but sank in .

The Nina, was one of a three ships that Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic in 1492 on a discovery mission to the new world in three different voyages, and its’ last known log was recorded in 1501. Under Columbus’ command the Nina logged over 25,000 nautical miles.

The Pinta, was the fastest ship Columbus’s sailed in his widely known mission. With a crew of just 26 seamen, the Pinta accompanied the Nina on several transatlantic voyages including the one accredited as “discovering America.” The ship left Pablos de la Frontera and stopped in the Canary Islands in August of 1492 and they made landfall in the Bahamas at dawn in October of 1492. It is believed that the Pinta was originally built in 1441. But was rebuilt sometime later for Christopher Columbus to sail. The Pinta also survived the hurricane in 1495 and later returned to Spain in 1496.

The Nina and Pinta were smaller ships and that made sailing difficult in the Atlantic Ocean. Recruiting seamen was a difficult task because of the treacherous open seas. Some of the few seamen manning the Pinta included a handful of criminals and were given a shorter sentence for sailing with Columbus.

The ships will remain at Tin City until when they will sail to Fort Myers and dock at .

The ships will be open to the public for self-guided tours. For more information visit www.ninapinta.org

Published in Outdoor

The road to the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant winds through Georgia pines, past the massive International Paper mill where many trees meet their end, and on toward the Savannah River, which forms the border with South Carolina. A couple of miles out, the 55-story steel-and-cement cooling towers loom over the tree line. Cottony white vapor rises from the towers in what one hopes is a friendly, nonradioactive greeting from the nuclear facility.
Less friendly is the white security pickup with a yellow roof flasher that materializes when I pull my rental car to the side of River Road to take in the view. Provisionally satisfied I’m not a terrorist, the guard lets me head to the military-style entry station, where another security man with a Glock on his hip points to a glassed-in rendezvous point. Credentials are checked, and introductions are made to plant staff. They’re proud of the work they do, but on high alert against sabotage and bad publicity.
Plant Vogtle, as the locals call it, is named for a former chief executive officer of Southern Co., the Atlanta-based utility that jointly owns it with several smaller Georgia power companies. As utility officials go, Alvin Vogtle cut a dashing figure. A World War II hero, he inspired the character played by Steve McQueen in the 1963 film classic The Great Escape. (Unlike McQueen’s Captain Hilts, aka “the Cooler King,” Vogtle did not vault barbed wire on a motorcycle.)
In rural Burke County, his namesake plant is regarded with awe, not least because it has employed so many residents over the years. Beginning in the early 1970s, 14,000 construction workers put up the first two reactors on a 3,100-acre site. Today 800 employees—including engineers, control-room operators, lab technicians, and security officers—oversee the plant’s operations 24/7. A pair of hump-topped containment buildings with 4-foot-thick concrete walls house two 355-ton underground reactor vessels: Vogtle Units 1 and 2. On-site inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) conduct spot patrols and check monitoring instruments.
Apart from a nuclear plant’s characteristic power hum, Vogtle is surprisingly quiet. Next door it’s a different story. Concrete-mixer trucks rumble across 800 acres of unpaved red Georgia clay as workers weld enormous components shipped from distant factories. A 60-story derrick, one of the tallest in the world, lifts the modules into place as they’re completed. The two additional reactors under construction are supposed to combine with the operating units to make Southern’s Plant Vogtle the most productive nuclear facility in the nation, ultimately generating electricity for 1 million customers.
“It’s going to be one of the most successful megaprojects in modern American industrial history,” says Thomas Fanning, Southern’s always-on CEO. With 4.4 million customers in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and northwest Florida, Southern, he says, “is leading the nation’s nuclear renaissance.”

One doesn’t hear much about the nuclear renaissance these days. A decade ago, when Southern started on Vogtle Units 3 and 4, nuclear was poised for a revival. It had backing not only from utility executives but also from climate activists feeling new affection for its low-carbon emission profile. With President Obama’s Clean Power Plan—aiming for 32 percent carbon reduction by 2030 and officially enacted on Oct. 23—nuclear ought to be booming right about now.
But it’s not. Vogtle Units 3 and 4 are outliers, two of only five reactors being built in the U.S. Two others are under way in South Carolina; Tennessee Valley Authority’s much delayed, 40-years-in-the-making Watts Bar Unit 2 plant finally received its operating license in October, making it the first reactor to come online in the U.S. this century. Even as sympathetic an observer as John Rowe warns that the new units at Vogtle will be uneconomical when—or if—they’re completed. “They did it as a long-term investment in Georgia’s economy,” says Rowe, former chairman of Chicago-based Exelon, the country’s largest nuclear operator. “That was a wrong decision.”
Stunting the renaissance before it got going were the 2008-09 recession, the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, and especially the proliferation of cheap natural gas. Nuclear, which provides 19 percent of U.S. electricity and two-thirds of the country’s emission-free power, has arrived at a perilous crossroads. Four nuclear plants have shut down over the past several years because of recession-stifled demand and inexpensive gas. Eight or nine more are in danger of premature retirement for similar economic reasons.
The tortuous history of Plant Vogtle—of public safety concerns, budget overruns, lawsuits, and seemingly self-defeating politics—explains why it’s so hard to get nuclear done and illuminates the strange paradox of nuclear power today. “The only way we significantly reduce carbon in the short run is if projects like Vogtle come online,” says Josh Freed, vice president for clean energy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank in Washington. Yet, he adds, “just when we need to preserve and expand nuclear in order to meet the president’s ambitious climate goals, we’re actually in danger of losing a substantial percentage of carbon-free generation.”
At Southern they refer to Fanning, 58, as Rocket Man, a nickname earned “while blazing a trail through 15 jobs in eight business units” during a 35-year career, according to Big Bets, an in-house corporate history. Leaning forward and gesticulating vigorously, he describes his utility as “arguably the most important energy company in the United States.” Fanning fancies himself a straight shooter and realizes that much of the public is wary of nuclear power. Asked when he first thought about the pros and cons of nukes, he recalls his senior year at Georgia Tech—the spring of 1979. “Three Mile Island,” he says, his enthusiasm waning, if just for a moment. At the time of that terrifying accident—a partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pa.—Southern was building two of its own first-generation nuclear plants, one near Baxley, Ga., the other near Dothan, Ala. Thankfully no one died at Three Mile Island, but afterward, “the complexity and variability kind of allowed design chaos to occur,” Fanning says. “Costs just went off the charts.”
Vogtle Units 1 and 2, begun in 1971, weren’t completed until 1989, more than a decade late. The original price tag was $900 million; the final bill came to $9 billion. After only seven years of operation, safety fears again stalled the industry following the full meltdown at Chernobyl. An explosion at the Ukrainian reactor led to the worst civilian atomic accident ever. Clouds of radioactive particles caused thousands of deaths among cleanup workers and left 1,000 square miles uninhabitable. While American plants such as Vogtle were better built and more safely operated than their Soviet counterparts, few Americans advocated for new nuclear facilities.
Then, at the turn of the millennium, something unexpected happened: Environmentalists who’d manned antinuke campaigns began to shift their attention to climate change. Some green heroes such as James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who sounded alarms about global warming, endorsed nuclear power as a necessary element of any workable carbon reduction strategy. “In the space of a few years the atmosphere changed dramatically, and we started to hear about this ‘renaissance,’ ” says Joseph “Buzz” Miller, a chemical engineer who joined Southern’s nuclear division just in time for Chernobyl in 1986.

The erosion of antinuke activism opened the door for pro-nuclear policies. In 2005, Congress gave nuclear developers a package of tax credits, cost-overrun backstops, and federal loan guarantees. Dozens of reactors were commissioned. Miller was assigned to oversee construction of Vogtle 3 and 4. “The economy was zooming,” he says. “Natural gas prices were high, and everyone was talking about nuclear providing clean, 24/7 baseload power—and that’s whether or not the sun shines or the wind’s blowing.”

Southern hired Westinghouse Electric, which had designed a standardized reactor model approved by the NRC. Westinghouse marketed the AP1000 as more likely to stay within schedules and budgets because its main components can be built efficiently at specialized work yards, then shipped to a plant site and snapped together like an enormous steel-and-concrete Lego creation. “It’s a much simpler design based on the decades of experience we didn’t have in the 1970s and 1980s,” says Miller. Deploying its formidable state-level lobbying force, Southern pushed Georgia politicians to enact an arrangement in 2009 called Construction Work in Progress. CWIP required customers to finance Vogtle 3 and 4 on a pay-as-you-go basis, rather than the traditional approach of a utility seeking full reimbursement after a nuke plant is completed—inevitably provoking sticker shock.
In Washington, Obama folded support for Vogtle 3 and 4 into his broader campaign for climate legislation. The bill put a declining cap on carbon emissions while allowing cleaner utilities to trade pollution permits with dirtier rivals. At a news conference in February 2010, the president announced approval of $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for Southern. “Those who have long advocated for nuclear power, including many Republicans,” he said, “have to recognize that we will not achieve a big boost in nuclear capacity unless we also create a system of incentives to make clean energy profitable”—a reference to his “cap and trade” legislation.
Southern accepted the loan guarantees but took an equivocal position on cap and trade. While the utility nominally supported some kind of climate bill, it stood shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a corporate group that opposed the Obama plan as harmful to the economy. At the time, Southern still generated 56 percent of its electricity from burning coal, so on balance, cap and trade might have hurt its bottom line. Sometimes the company even seemed to be at cross-purposes. Earlier this year, environmentalists using the Freedom of Information Act disclosed documents showing that for the decade beginning in 2005, Southern had provided almost $470,000 to fund research by Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a Smithsonian-affiliated solar physicist who disputes widely accepted evidence of climate change. After the disclosure, Southern said it would stop funding Soon’s work. In the spring of 2010, the Obama climate bill died in the Senate.
Despite bailing on cap and trade, Southern continued to enjoy the Obama administration’s loyalty. Then, in March 2011, an earthquake-generated tsunami swamped the inadequately protected coastal Fukushima nuke facility in Japan, causing diesel generators to fail. That cut power to pumps circulating coolant water, leading to a meltdown. Almost 16,000 people died as a result of the earthquake and tsunami. Radiation isn’t thought to have killed anyone immediately, although some experts predict cancer rates will rise among first responders. In all events, Fukushima raised fresh doubts about Southern’s Vogtle expansion.
Fanning, promoted to CEO only four months earlier, launched an all-out lobbying blitz. “I talked to everybody that would listen” at the White House and in Congress, he says. He argued that Vogtle didn’t face coastal flooding or seismic dangers. Moreover, he said, the Westinghouse AP1000 represented a leap ahead of the technology at Fukushima.
AP stands for “advanced passive,” a reference to an array of automatic safety devices designed to prevent meltdowns without human intervention. The main such mechanisms are enormous water reservoirs placed above and within the reactor vessel. If the cooling system fails, as it did at Fukushima, valves open, and gravity pulls the water down to cool the containment structure. As the water turns to steam, it rises, cools back to a liquid, and pours back down. That process is supposed to last up to three days, after which diesel-powered pumps kick in to add water from an exterior reservoir. Or that’s the plan; one never knows about fail-safes until something serious fails.
The Obama administration bought Fanning’s pitch. In February 2012, the NRC voted 4 to 1 to license Vogtle 3 and 4. Then-Chairman Gregory Jaczko cast the lone dissent, citing Fukushima. A few days later, in a speech in Miami defending his “all of the above” energy policy, Obama referred to Vogtle, saying: “We supported the first new nuclear power plant in three decades.” A grateful Fanning calls the administration’s decision “a big bet by America.”
That bet hasn’t paid off yet. The notion that standardized AP1000s would stay on time and within budget hasn’t worked out. By late 2012, the $14 billion Vogtle project was almost $1 billion over budget and seven months behind the April 2016 target for Unit 3 to begin operation. In November of that year, litigation broke out between Southern and Westinghouse over the overruns. Southern blamed flaws in Westinghouse’s plans; the contractor pointed to changes made in response to NRC revisions of the reactor shield building. The suits are still pending. Westinghouse declined to comment.
By 2013, an engineer working for the Georgia Public Service Commission had identified persistent problems at the Chicago Bridge & Iron factory in Lake Charles, La., where components of the AP1000 were being built. Construction requirements for nuclear plants are more stringent than those of any other industry. Welds are meticulously checked via X-ray analysis and documented. Some of the work done in Lake Charles initially wasn’t up to code and had to be redone.
Miller concedes that many welders in Louisiana were “used to working on oil rigs.” He says these shortcomings have all been remedied, in part by farming out some of the fabrication work to factories as far away as Oregon and Japan.
Skeptics aren’t reassured. “I’m not against nuclear per se,” says Robert Baker, an Atlanta lawyer and former Georgia public-service commissioner who represents the nonprofit Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “But the difficulties Southern has encountered raise serious questions about whether the Vogtle project can be completed in a safe and economical fashion. Nuclear isn’t the only way to generate electricity. We can build natural gas [plants] for less, and the cost of renewables is coming down fast.”
The Georgia Public Service Commission confirms that Vogtle’s fabrication standards improved, but not before the project fell further behind. Originally, the company expected to load nuclear fuel this summer. Vogtle’s construction bosses now concede they’re at least three years behind schedule, with Unit 3 expected to begin operating in 2019, followed by Unit 4 in 2020. The total cost estimate has risen to $16.2 billion, 16 percent over budget. “This is the first time we’ve built reactors since the 1980s,” says Miller. “There were bound to be some hiccups.”
Perhaps, but the bond evaluation company Fitch Ratings is prepared to make a negative early call on the AP1000 reactors going in at Vogtle and Scana’s Virgil C. Summer plant in South Carolina, which are also behind schedule and over budget. The Westinghouse reactors have “fail[ed] … to deliver lower prices and shorter timelines,” Fitch noted in an Aug. 20 report. “Four AP1000 reactors under construction in China have also experienced cost overruns and delays. In our view, the change in expectations about this technique could join other forces in keeping [nuclear] expansion down.”
Other utilities have abandoned nuclear projects left and right. In the immediate wake of Fukushima, NRG Energy wrote off $500 million related to two reactors it canceled in Texas. The promise of federal loan guarantees wasn’t enough to prevent Constellation Energy Group from dropping plans to expand at its Calvert Cliffs nuke plant in Maryland.
“If America’s nuclear plants begin retiring in droves, achieving the Clean Power Plan emissions reductions could be impossible”
Turns out nuclear has been eclipsed by another scourge of environmentalists: the fracking revolution. Technological advances in freeing natural gas from subterranean rock formations—and the relatively modest price of building gas-fired power plants—make it difficult to justify the higher costs of building nuclear, especially in regions such as the Midwest and Northeast, where energy markets deregulated beginning in the 1990s. Nimble energy producers can sell gas-fired electricity into deregulated areas at prices much lower than that of nuclear or coal. Southern has the advantage of operating in a still-regulated market, where state public-service commissions effectively limit competition from cheap gas.

In just the past several years, economic pressures in deregulated markets have caused the closure of Dominion Resources’ Kewaunee nuke plant in Wisconsin, Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant, and three other nuclear facilities. An additional eight or nine of the nation’s 99 nuclear units, several of them in Illinois and Ohio, are threatened with similar premature closures, according to Fitch, an estimate similar to one made recently by Moody’s Investors Service. In mid-October, Entergy added the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., to the shutdown list, saying it would close no later than in mid-2019.
The Obama administration adjusted the president’s Clean Power Plan specifically to reward construction of nuclear capacity. Under a draft version circulated last year, yet-to-be-completed reactors wouldn’t have been credited for carbon reductions after they started operating. Nuclear industry players, including Southern, complained that this would make it more difficult for states to meet federally mandated carbon reduction targets. In the final plan released this August, the Environmental Protection Agency said Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee may take credit for carbon-free electricity from their nascent nukes. (Lower carbon levels attributable to existing reactors won’t count under the Obama plan, leaving those units vulnerable to premature retirement.)
“We tend to view the new rules as potentially the first bit of good news for the struggling nuclear industry,” Julien Dumoulin-Smith, an analyst for UBS, wrote in a research note after Obama announced the Clean Power Plan in August. But two weeks later, the pro-nuclear Third Way think tank produced a white paper warning that plant closures in Illinois, New Jersey, and Ohio could eclipse the new output in the South. “If America’s nuclear plants begin retiring in droves, achieving the Clean Power Plan emissions reductions could be impossible,” Third Way said in the paper, titled When Nuclear Ends.

Even with all the pessimism surrounding nuclear, one would assume that Southern is happy about the revised plan making it easier for Georgia to meet its emissions requirements. The carbon reduction goals, while facing Republican opposition and court challenges, make Southern look prescient in pressing ahead with the Vogtle expansion.
Repeatedly, I ask Fanning, the CEO, whether he’ll support Obama’s plan, which would require Southern to close most of its remaining coal-powered generating plants. Once, twice, three times he deflects the question. Finally he says: “We’ll work to do the right thing.”
Well, yes, that’s called following federal law. What about publicly campaigning for the Clean Power Plan as a goad to new nuclear construction?
No, Fanning says, Southern won’t support the plan. He calls it federal “overreach.” Setting carbon reduction goals, he adds, should be left to the states rather than Washington bureaucrats. On Oct. 23, Southern’s Georgia Power unit formally objected to the Obama plan in a federal court filing in Washington, saying the mandate would force it to retire 4,800 megawatts of fossil fuel-fired electricity.
So even though Southern has been shifting away from coal for years—its current mix is 48 percent natural gas, 32 percent coal, 16 percent nuclear, and 4 percent hydro, solar, and wind combined—it doesn’t want the EPA to dictate the pace of change. The echo of 2010, when the utility took federal loan guarantees from Obama but wouldn’t get behind the president’s cap-and-trade legislation, is unmistakable.
“It’s strange,” says Third Way’s Freed. “When we need all interested parties pulling together behind both emission reductions and nuclear expansion, we’re likely to get tepid utility support for the Clean Power Plan and net nuclear capacity reduction. It doesn’t add up.”
Fanning says he doesn’t feel obliged to reconcile his enthusiasm for nuclear and reluctance about Obama’s carbon mandate. Southern, he says, is an “all of the above” utility that pursues all viable sources of energy—always with the goal of providing more electricity at lower prices. Addressing the topic of efficiency steps that could reduce overall energy use and shield the environment, he says: “I think that’s garbage.” Consumers want more powerful air conditioners, faster computers, and better high-tech medical care, he says. “Energy efficiencies really don’t mean ‘Sell less.’ ”
Update: On October 27, Westinghouse, a unit of Toshiba, resolved its dispute with Southern in a settlement that included Westinghouse acquiring Chicago Bridge & Iron's nuclear business and taking over management of the Vogtle expansion.

Published in Environment
Friday, 22 April 2016 12:49

The Lionfish Invasion

was accidentally introduced to the eastern seaboard and Caribbean in the 1990s. After its introduction to the Atlantic, the lionfish has steadily expanded its range. The first confirmed sighting of a lionfish occurred within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) in January 2009. The lionfish has no known natural predators in the Atlantic, an appetite for native fish and crustaceans, and the ability to spawn year-round. Because of this, ecologists are concerned that lionfish could have an impact on native reef fish populations and the natural balance of the reef ecosystem.

Prior to the arrival of lionfish in the Keys, FKNMS and other partners developed an early detection and rapid response plan for invasive fish. Stickers listing the reporting hotline numbers were distributed to dive operators and marinas throughout the Keys while outreach campaigns served to raise awareness of the fish and the reporting hotlines. Upon receipt of a sighting report, trained divers were deployed to capture the fish.
As lionfish sightings increased during 2009, resource managers began enlisting the help of the dive community in control efforts to remove the invasive fish. Lionfish capture technique workshops were held throughout the Keys and attended by more than 100 dive operators, marine life collectors and members of the research community. These workshops were a prerequisite for a sanctuary permit to remove lionfish which must be done with hand nets within the 18 no take zones of the sanctuary. No permit is required to remove lionfish from the general use areas of the sanctuary or outside sanctuary boundaries, but training is strongly recommended.
In the first year of the invasion, approximately 60 lionfish sightings were confirmed, with about 50 percent successfully removed from sanctuary waters. The majority have been sighted by divers, though a few have been found in lobster traps. Hook and line capture of lionfish is rare, though possible. Lionfish have no known depth preference and have been found in the Keys as shallow as seawalls and as deep as the artificial reef of the Vandenberg (140 feet). Nor do they seem to have a habitat preference as they have been found on reefs, in mangroves and in seagrass meadows.
Lionfish State Graph
Divers in the Florida Keys who spot a lionfish are encouraged to take note of the location and call the reporting hotline (305)852-0030. Trained divers may attempt to capture or kill the fish, but are asked to report the sighting and location. Anglers should be careful if they catch a lionfish. If it becomes hooked, the line should be cut releasing the fish into a cooler. No attempt should be made to remove the hook itself since the venomous spines of the lionfish release a toxin that can be extremely painful. If accidentally stung, immerse the wound in hot water and seek immediate medical attention. The 24-hour Aquatic Toxins Hotline at the Florida Poison Information Center in Miami has medical experts on hand and can be reached by calling 1-888-232-8635.
Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection
Published in Environment

On Wednesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved rewards for anyone who harvests a minimum of 50 Lionfish over the next twelve months. The FWC will also reward the person who kills the most lionfish at either tournaments or at lionfish checkpoints between May 14 –now called Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day - and Sept. 30. That person will be given a lifetime saltwater fishing license, be designated a lionfish Hall-of-Famer, allowed to take an extra spiny lobster and have a chance at being crowned the Lionfish King or Queen.

In addition, their photo will be featured on the cover of the FWC’s January 2017 saltwater regulations publication, and they will be individually recognized at the November 2016 Commission meeting.

Lee County Lion fish hunt 1

The FWC was motivated to expand its efforts to eradicate the Lionfish after the very recent Indian River fish kill. While tens of thousands of fish spanning over 30 species were found dead in the massive die-off, not a single Lionfish was found. It is a tough, voracious predator and is causing extensive damage to Florida’s native fish and shellfish populations. The scope of the problem is easy to understand since the Indian River Lagoon alone spans 156 miles and six counties.

It has only been a few short years since Lionfish invaded the Indian River watershed and nobody knows with any certainty when they arrived; but in 2010 two Florida Tech students spotted several inside Sebastian Inlet. Since then, they have been discovered inside Port Canaveral, in the lagoon itself; around seawalls, pilings and, in terms of an environmental threat; — in the mangroves. This is particularly significant since mangrove swamps are viewed as key nursery areas for grouper, snapper and other commercially valuable species. Also they continue to spread rapidly and are now found as far inland as Jupiter Inlet.

Lee County is also no stranger to the Indo-Pacific Lionfish. In July of 2011, the NewsPress published an article heralding their arrival in SW Florida.

Lionfish spawn and prefer to live around rocky reefs, so they are unlikely to threaten people on sandy beaches, but they are a huge threat to our local fishing community because they reduce already diminished populations of commercially taken species like grouper and snapper. Since the NewsPress first made the public aware of their presence they’ve continued to spread in the waters offshore from southwest Florida’s Lee County. Lee County officials first sighted the Lionfish about 160 miles off Marco Island and in the nearshore waters off Sarasota County. Local divers report they are now abundant in the artificial reefs and rocky formations of Lee County waters.

Lionfish are a serious threat. To illustrate this point the Washington Post published an article by a group of prominent scientists, including marine biologists who said that lionfish were “one of the top 15 threats to biodiversity worldwide.”

spearing lionfish 2 1

“They are taking over ecosystems from Trinidad and Tobago all the way up to Maine,” said Barton Seaver, a Blue Ocean Institute Fellow who was quoted by the Post.

Since they breed year round and are voracious predators, they rapidly take over any territory they invade to become the dominant fish species as has occurred on many reefs in the Bahamas and Caribbean.

Of grave concern to commercial fishermen is how they reduce desirable commercial species by reducing recruitment of juvenile snapper and grouper. It has been shown that a single lionfish can reduce the number of juvenile fish on a small patch reef by 80 percent in five weeks.

lionfish fillet 2

Fortunately Lionfish are good to eat. Those who have tried them say they have white, flaky meat that is not fishy. They have been compared to hogfish, long considered a local delicacy.

To bring increased awareness to lionfish edibility and put them on menus, a South West Florida organization -The Heights Center and Lee Reefs – began hosting an event called “Lionfish Fest – Feast on the Beast” – a lionfish Roundup and Chef Cook-off. With the expressed goal of helping to control local lionfish populations, Lee Reefs also held a competition to capture lionfish.

Due to their poisonous spines, spearing them is the preferred method of catching them and while this method is labor intensive our seafood industry is trying to work out a method to make them economically viable as a commercial species. The FWC has already waived the recreational license requirement for divers harvesting lionfish using certain gear, including spears and they also voted to exclude lionfish from the commercial and recreational bag limits.

In the current eradication initiative, all lionfish must be counted via an FWC-approved process, at a sponsored tournament or a check-in location. Locations will be listed online at MyFWC.com/Lionfish. The FWC wants the public to be aware that all other fishing rules still apply.

The FWC will establish as many lionfish check-in locations as feasible between now and May 14, and lionfish recorded at FWC-sponsored tournaments will automatically count. A list of tournaments and check-in locations will be available on MyFWC.com/Lionfish prior to May 14.

“Innovative programs like these are a great way to generate public involvement and interest in controlling the Lionfish population,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski in a press release. “Those that remove lionfish not only get rewarded for their efforts, but they also get the experience of helping manage Florida’s fisheries."

The program will also help FWC “gather better data to improve the agency's approach to invasive species control,” he said.

The new initiative also includes a Panhandle Pilot Program to focus on Lionfish removal efforts off Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties.

The Lionfish problem is far worse in those counties. To provide even greater incentive for participation, for every 100 lionfish harvested from that seven-county region between May 2016 and May 2017, the harvester will be become eligible for a tag that will allow them to take a legal-sized red grouper or a legal-sized cobia over the bag limit.

Accordingly, Florida will issue 100 red grouper and 30 cobia tags to successful participants in the pilot program. Also, any individual or group that harvests 500 or more Lionfish during this one-year period will be given the unique opportunity to name an artificial reef.

Learn about Lionfish, including the two-day FWC hosted Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival (May 14-15) in Pensacola; at MyFWC.com/Lionfish or ReefRangers.com.

Staff report:

{Carl Conley, Christine Williams and the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute all contributed to this article.}



Published in Environment

The Lee County School Board voted unanimously this past Tuesday to build a Bonita Springs High School on a 76-acre, 11 million dollar parcel off of Imperial Parkway and Shangri-La Road. Currently high school students in the area attend classes four miles outside of Bonita Spring.

Published in Business

Along with 20 other measures, Governor Rick Scott signed a bill last week known as “Legacy Florida.” It will release funds to continue restoration of the Florida Everglades, the state’s natural springs and Lake Apopka.
The measure received support from conservationists and was pushed hard by a coalition of lawmakers. Up to $250 million annually may now be made available for restoration work. The money would come from funds approved by voters in 2014 for the “management and preservation of state lands and waters.”

Published in Environment

RNC Wrong to Attack Trump for Winning

Trump is the only one that has the business experience and has gone through the wars of staying in business, frivolous lawsuits and being fantastic in his business results. There is a special ruthlessness in being successful in business, as is in government. The others are clueless wannabees. He has the experience that our country needs. He is a true job creator. The others have created nothing except obstruction. 4 business bankruptcies out of building probably over 100 hotels, golf courses, casinos, resorts, apartment buildings and other buildings is nothing in today's business world. That is over a 96% success rate. You will never hear lying Ted Cruz, or the RNC give him credit for this.
It is truly amazing to see Trump destroying the RNC and their corporate criminal backers who want to control the party and the country. The RNC and their lackeys and owners are making Trump look better every day. The pharmaceutical and health care companies who control the tea party nuts in congress and the military hardware suppliers who rip the government and taxpayers off, are getting more nervous as Trump looks like he will win the nomination

Jim Keating



Trump too unpopular to win

Despite the fact that many of your readers seem to support Donald Trump as their candidate of choice, the numbers are not with them.
"More than 60 percent of all registered voters and 31 percent of Republicans said they definitely would not vote for Trump in the general election."
And his supporters claim he's winning. LMAO!

Joe Valentson ·




Black Lives Needs to do the Math

There is NO way a race can claim less than 1% of black murders is the main problem when the number one cause of death of young black men is another black man! Not only that, the BLM movement is the MOST racist of any group. If it os OK that there are bad cops, why isn't it OK to say their are bad black people? I have no issue saying their are bad white people! AND don;t tell me it's a socio-economic issue either. Their are more whites living in poverty than blacks, yet we don;t see the level of murder or serious crime in the white population.

Jeff Hodges



On the Gender Pay Gap

Your recent article on gender inequality made the following statement and I quote: "Women in the United States earn around 20% less than men. Even when controlling for observable factors such as experience, education level, age and job title, the gender pay gap stubbornly remains." . . . ummm but it doesnt remain at 20%. So to state it's 20% then proceed to say that even when you account for variables other than gender it still remains is kind of dishonest. It's actually like 5%-2% when you account for more variables. Also, women tend to not negotiate for pay as much as men do. There have been studies done to back this up also btw. So I think someone should look to see if that fact would also maybe close some of the pay gap when you account for it in these studies.

Tom Krager

Published in Letters To The Editor
Wednesday, 20 April 2016 09:13

Read the Law, Judge. Pot Is a Sacrament

A U.S. appeals court says that the federal law protecting religious liberty doesn't shield a Hawaiian church that uses cannabis in its rituals. That's pretty outrageous.
The decision’s perverse logic relies on a cartoonishly rigid idea of religious obligation. And it suggests that the religious-freedom law only protects mainstream religious groups like the Catholic Church, not smaller denominations.

Published in Sun Bay Editorials

The Indiana University Jacobs School of Music sadly announced the recent death of David N. Baker, distinguished professor of music and Jazz Studies Department chair emeritus, at the age of 84.
Baker died peacefully Saturday, March 26, at his home in Bloomington, Ind. A member of the Jacobs School of Music faculty since 1966, he founded the Jazz Studies program and served as its chair from 1968 to 2013.

Published in Lifestyle
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