Register now for Bays and Bayous

Registration is now open for the 2016 Mississippi-Alabama Bays and Bayous Symposium.

 

2016-bays-bayous-registration-open

Submit an abstract for Bays and Bayous

call-for-abstracts-extended

The deadline for submitting abstracts has been extended to 5 P.M. Central Time on Friday, Sept. 16. View the call for abstracts.

The 2016 Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Bays and Bayous Symposium’s program committee welcomes and encourages the participation of scientists, natural resource professionals, students, business people, educators, outreach specialists, policy and decision makers, consultants and individuals from governmental or non-governmental organizations to submit a presentation abstract.

Presenters are encouraged to discuss current research results that are relevant to Gulf of Mexico environmental issues and how this research is used to support the economy, the environment and society by informing the decision-making process or increasing marine science literacy.

Session topics include:

  • Climate and hazard resilience
  • Oil spill impacts
  • Habitat management and restoration
  • Living resources
  • Water quality and quantity

Abstracts can be submitted for both oral and poster presentations. The oral presentations will be 15 minutes with a 5-minute question-and-answer session following each presentation. Individuals wishing to present must submit an abstract no later than 5 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. Abstracts will be limited to 250 words.

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:

 

Online viewer shows values for habitats in Gulf

GecoView

 

The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Services Viewer shows, in an interactive format, the values people place on salt marshes, mangroves and oyster reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. Based on research results, this tool fills an informational gap in the Gulf.

Read more

Use viewer

 

Wright named nature tourism specialist

Chandra Wright

Chandra Wright is a nature tourism specialist for Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant.

Chandra Wright has joined the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism and the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center as a nature tourism specialist.

She will provide technical training to improve business management practices and increase profits. She also will conduct training and certification programs, presentations, workshops and face-to-face consultations with people interested in developing or expanding nature tourism operations in such areas as sustainable charter fishing and dolphin and nature tours.

While her office is located in Gulf Shores, Ala., she will be working with nature-tourism businesses on the Alabama and Mississippi coasts.

“We are so happy to have Chandra in this position,” said Colette Boehm, special projects director for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. “She’s been involved in many of the nature-based activities along the coast for years, so her experience, along with her professional knowledge base, is an excellent combination. She’ll be a great asset to the nature tourism industry.”

Wright holds a Juris Doctor from The University of Alabama School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Alabama. Before working as a nature tourism specialist, she practiced civil law.

“As a direct result of witnessing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill’s negative effects on the coastal environment, I felt called to channel my time and skills into better stewardship of our natural resources,” she said.

Boehm said Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism’s partnership with Sea Grant offers the opportunity to support nature tourism efforts along the coast and help entrepreneurs meet both their business goals and the tourism market demand. “Of course, those businesses depend on our natural resources, so the focus on offering responsible, sustainable business practices is the basis for the entire program,” she said.

Wright, an avid scuba diver and nature photographer, can be reached at 251-974-4634 or cwright@gulfshores.com.

Second Annual Nutria Rodeo Scheduled

The Second Annual Nutria Rodeo at the Larose Regional Park will be Saturday, March 23. Nutria damage between 6,000 and 10,000 acres of coastal marsh each year. Without continued control of the nutria population, the invasive species will continue to destroy the state’s vital marshes. Visit www.sassafrasla.org for more information.

Nutria Rodeo Poster

Nutria Rodeo Poster

 

Bays and Bayous brings 364 people to Biloxi

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Bays and Bayous

The 2012 Mississippi-Alabama Bays and Bayous Symposium attracted 364 people for two days of presentations about current coastal research and outreach. People from 10 states attended the event, where 185 presenters shared information in five different sessions.

Bays and Bayous Symposium

Register now for Bays and Bayous.