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Walton joins Sea Grant as oyster aquaculture extension specialist

walton bio pic 1(OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss.) — The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) welcomes Bill Walton of Auburn University to its outreach team. He is serving as an oyster aquaculture extension specialist who will use aquaculture as a tool for restoration, stock assessment and farming to help increase oyster production in Mississippi.

Walton, who has a doctorate degree in fisheries science, is also an associate professor at Auburn University, an extension specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and a faculty member at Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

A partnership between the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR), The University of Southern Mississippi, Auburn University, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and MASGC made the position possible. Read More

MASGC seeks fiscal officer

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) is searching for a fiscal officer to help support its university-based coastal science program.

Candidates must be able to formulate and manage budgets; process, produce and organize financial information; balance and reconcile accounts; and develop proposals. They should have extensive experience in accounting, finance and grants.gov.

The position is a full-time position with benefits through The University of Southern Mississippi and will be located at USM’s Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Minimum requirements include a bachelor’s degree and three years in business and fiscal management. A master’s degree is preferred.

Candidates must apply online (http://usm.edu/employment-hr, posting number 0004046) through USM.

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium is a program that supports marine research, extension, outreach and education programs. MASGC is one of 33 Sea Grant College Programs located around the United States.

Oil Spill Outreach Team gets three more years of funding

Great news, friends — the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) has agreed to continue funding our Oil Spill Science Outreach Team for three more years! Read all about it in a staff blog by Larissa Graham, part of the outreach team.

Oil spill outreach team photo

Red snapper funding opportunity announced

A lucky anglers hauls in a red snapper from the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida Sea Grant agent Betty Staugler readies a red snapper for return to its depth using a spring-loaded descending device. (Florida Sea Grant photo)

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, on behalf of the Sea Grant college programs in the Gulf of Mexico region and NOAA Fisheries, is accepting proposals to develop an experimental design(s) that will be incorporated into larger advanced technology and mark-recapture requests for proposals planned for Fiscal Year 2017.

The deadline for letters of intent for the design phase of this research effort is 5 p.m. Central Time on Friday, June 3, 2016.

The design will be used to assess the population of red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) on artificial reefs and other structures, and as the basis for a Gulf-wide estimate (with estimates also produced for natural habitats) of absolute abundance.

The red snapper is a popular target of anglers and the commercial fishing industry throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Historical overharvesting resulted in a depleted population, but under current management measures the population is recovering, with full recovery expected by 2032.

Some controversy surrounds the current stock assessment for red snapper, particularly with regard to accuracy of population estimates on artificial reefs and other structures considered to be difficult to sample using trawl surveys.

For detailed information, go to http://masgc.org/funding/red-snapper

Keep your eyes open for tagged crabs

Scientists at Nicholls State University in Louisiana are asking crabbers, shrimpers, fishers and the general public to report any tagged blue crab they catch. The project includes tagging in various areas of the Gulf, and the researchers are studying regional-scale movements of the blue crab. They have a special interest in females once they leave the estuaries and enter the Gulf. Each reported tag carries a reward of $5-$50.

tagging_flyer_GoM

50 Years of Sea Grant: Science Serving America’s Coasts

Here’s a look at the diverse work Sea Grant programs across the country have been doing over the last 50 years.

Tarpon Springs Business Links its Success to Florida Sea Grant

Jim Cantonis is president of Acme Sponge and Chamois of Tarpon Springs, Fla., a successful processor and wholesaler of marine sponges and sheepskin chamois products sold around the world. Florida Sea Grant contributes to the company’s success by conducting research in the biology of marine sponges that helps ensure the sustainability of the commercial fishery.

Q: Tell us about the sponge industry in Florida.

Cantonis: The natural sponge industry in Florida has had its ups and downs over the last few decades. It surged in the ’80s when there was blight in the Mediterranean. Mediterranean sponges have come back, so it’s leveled off the industry activity here. We still maintain a higher level of fishing than we had prior to that boom in the late ’80s, but not close to what we used to see in the 1920s and ’30s.

Q: Where does most of the sponge activity take place in Florida today?

Cantonis: Most of the activity in Florida now, 70%, is occurring in the Keys. But sponges are also fished off the west coast of Florida, primarily from Tarpon Springs north to Cedar Key.

Q: Tell us about Acme Sponge and Chamois.

Cantonis: I’m the fourth generation of the family business going back to the Mediterranean, a little island in Greece called Symi. That was the roots of our company,  but we actually started in the U.S., in NewYork City, when my dad at the age of 21 borrowed a thousand dollars and went there and started peddling Mediterranean sponges out of his trunk. Subsequently we moved to Chicago, then moved the whole operation down here in 1977. The new building we’re in today we built in 1985 to help us process sponges at a higher rate.

Q: What accounts for the 30% growth your business has seen over each of the last two years?

Cantonis: There’s been a real surge in using natural product, and of course there’s nothing more natural than a sponge picked out of the ocean. The biggest increase is for bath sponges, especially for bathing babies. Sponges have a natural antibacterial property to them. It’s amazing how many times we hear, ‘If it’s good enough for my baby it’s good enough for me.’

Q: How does sponge fishing relate to Florida Sea Grant?

Cantonis: Without Florida Sea Grant there would be no sponge fishery in Florida. The research done by Sea Grant and other researchers tells a wonderful story. At current harvest levels, sponges are truly a renewable resource. Sponge tissue left behind after harvesting can actually regenerate to produce a new sponge. No other fishery resource that I know of can tell the same story. This is why it is important to rely on objective scientific evidence in evaluating the management of our fishery resources. These are facts, not just conjecture by well-intentioned folks that don’t have all the information in front of them.

Q: In what ways are you engaged with Florida Sea Grant?

Cantonis: I’m involved on the Sea Grant advisory board now as vice chairman, and I value the time. It has given me the opportunity to work with all of the various constituencies concerned with the health of our coastlines from commercial fishermen to sport fishermen, from environmentalists to research scientists, to other industries unrelated to the fisheries that are directly involved in wanting quality waterways and a healthy Florida ecology.

Q: How can other business leaders become involved?

Cantonis: Call me. Or better yet, contact Florida Sea Grant at the University of Florida and tell them you’d like to get involved. It’s wonderful on two levels. Number one, it’s great for the health of our state. But it’s also a benefit for business owners that have anything to do with the fisheries and our coastline, to get involved and truly be able to make a positive difference. The program is about developing partnerships with businesses to support the work needed to solve practical problems.”

Q: How does Sea Grant ensure its relevance to Floridians?

Cantonis: It’s applied science,so it is science to me at its best. It’s not just the fisheries. It has impact on every aspect of our lives in Florida. Eighty percent of the population of Florida is within 20 miles of the coast. So we’re all directly impacted by the threats of hurricanes — by the threats of sea-level rise. And all of those things are concerns of Sea Grant.

Visit these links to learn more about Florida’s marine sponges: