The talk was given by Dr. Aaron Adams and Dr. Steve Locascio and focused on Snook behavior and spawning habits.
“Mote’s local facility was established to bring public awareness to protect and preserve the Charlotte harbor estuary system,” Dan O’Bannon said during his introduction.
He added that, of the satellite facility's five initiatives – red tide, tarpon, sharks, enhancement for snook and tarpon, and snook conservation – the last was especially important after the temperatures dropped low enough for an extended period of time in 2010 to kill a significant number of Snook.
“We had a large snook kill. That population needs to come back before that season re-opens,” said O’Bannon.
Dr. Aaron Adams, senior scientist at Mote Marine laboratory, emphasized that sustainability was crucial in the wake of that kill. According to Dr. Adams, Mote has maintained a presence here via Pine Island and nearby keys since 2001.
“We've done a lot of work on sharks, dolphins and invertebrates like clams, but most of the work has been done on fish in Charlotte harbor,” Adams said.
This includes tarpon, the subject of his previous presentation in the series, and snook, on which Mote has trained its focus for the long term. Because they have already accumulated data on snook, Adams and his fellow researchers are hoping to connect seemingly distinct data to form a real picture of just how snook behave, particularly when spawning, in local waters as well as offshore. Adams called it a “connect-the-dots puzzle.”
“Our first step is to identify the dots,” he explained, “... things like where the juvenile snook live, where the adult snook spawn; those are the dots.”
Connecting them can be accomplished, he said, by understanding the process that allows spawning snook to have viable eggs and conditions that allow juveniles to become adults and survive and spawn themselves.
“Without that understanding, you really don't have a management plan or a long term, sustained fishery,” Adams said. “You go up to Tampa, you go to Indian River Lagoon, and most of their shorelines are hardened, or are seawalls, and most of the mangrove creeks don't exist anymore.”
Snook in those areas were found in rivers and near dams in deeper water where large and small snook mingled, and consequently the smaller snook were cannibalized more often.
By contrast, the Charlotte Harbor area retains much of its natural habitat thanks to efforts to preserve mangrove habitats, which began in the 70s.
In order to learn about their habits, Mote researchers have been using glass-encapsulated computer chips, surgically implanted in the snook’s abdomens. Each chip has a unique identification and is detected by solar powered devices installed on the banks of creeks and waterways.
“We can track their use of habitats over time,” Adams said.
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