NCBS Intern Report: Bay Scallop Population and Recreational Fishery Monitoring
NCBS Intern Report by Samara Nehemiah, Intern with UF IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station’s Dr. Mike Allen, and Steve Geiger from Fish and Wildlife Commission
I knew I was in for a great summer when, on my first day of work, I was headed to Destin, FL, preparing to spend the next 4 days 100 miles offshore. What a great first week! This summer I was lucky enough to work with two different Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) labs: the Fisheries-Independent Monitoring (FIM) Program and the Bay Scallop Population and Recreational Fishery Monitoring. During my first few days on the job, I would be assisting on one of FIM’s hooked gear offshore trips that aims to monitor reef fish populations that are commonly targeted by anglers. Most fish that we hooked would quickly be measured and released. Of the fish that were collected, we would pull otolith, stomach content, and take mercury samples.
Back in Cedar Key, I primarily assisted Fisheries Biologists with their monthly inshore sampling in the Cedar Key Estuary in order to help researchers estimate fish abundance and long-term fish population trends. Sampling methods include 600ft seine nets, 70ft seine nets, and otter trawls. All species collected at various sampling sites were identified, measured, and counted. Additionally, water quality and habitat types were measured and recorded at each sampling site. Pulling a 600ft seine net is no easy task, but it was incredibly rewarding to see the diversity of fish species that we get in the nets!
The second half of my internship included working with FWC scallop biologists conducting boat ramp intercept surveys at various boat ramps around Steinhatchee. The purpose of these surveys were to look at fishing pressure on bay scallops in order to monitor the scallop population and to promote better management practices. I was also lucky enough to participate in snorkeling catchability surveys in Pasco County. These survey help biologists determine what proportion of scallops is harvested by a typical scalloper on any given scalloping trip. To conduct these surveys I was required to swim along a 100m transect using snorkel gear and collect every scallop I saw. Two biologists followed me with diver gear to collect the scallops I may have missed. This was my first scalloping experience and I had a blast!
I have no words to express how great this summer was. I will definitely carry the knowledge I’ve learned this summer along with me into as I begin my Master’s program this fall. I learned many sampling techniques, how to identify numerous marine species, and most importantly how to take a catfish sting like a champ! I am so fortunate to have participated in this internship program and build these important relationships in the field. Most importantly, it was great sharing this experience with two other NCBS interns, Amy and Tyler.
Thanks to everyone at the Nature Coast Biological Station and the Fish and Wildlife Commission for an amazing summer!