Key Issues

The following are key issues in the State of Florida addressed in ongoing research by faculty, staff and students in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs)

Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs)– are established by Water Management Districts (WMD) to protect aquatic resources from harm due to anthropogenic alterations in flow. Citizens are concerned because each MFL affects availability of water for agriculture and urban areas, and recreational access. We work with multiple state and federal agencies to provide objective science regarding effects of MFLs on aquatic living resources, including fish and their essential habitats.

Fish Stock Assessment

Fish Stock Assessment – involves accurately estimating abundance, growth, age and size structure in order to maintain sustainable fisheries. Citizens are concerned because these assessments are used to set limits on commercial and recreational harvest. We provide objective science to agencies that assess stocks. Predictive modeling is the key growth area for this program.

Fisheries Habitat Enhancement

Fisheries Habitat Enhancement – relates to effects of mechanical habitat alteration in lakes and hydrologic restoration in rivers. Citizens are concerned about loss of fish habitat related to stabilized lake levels and shoreline development. We provide science to agencies in support of habitat remediation in fresh waters.

Artificial Reefs

Artificial Reefs - relates to research conducted over the last ten years by this Department to optimize size and configuration of artificial reefs as valuable fisheries habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. Citizens are concerned about intense fishing pressure on natural reefs and recognize the benefits of artificial reefs for sustainable fisheries, recreational diving, and other activities. We provide the science and outreach in support of state-wide development of this program.

Toxic Algal Blooms

Toxic Algal Blooms - relates to impacts of blooms in freshwater and marine systems. Citizens are concerned about beach closures and fish kills due to red tides along the Gulf Coast and warnings about swimming, fishing and contact recreation in lakes and rivers. We are working with the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) to develop a comprehensive program to identify controls of algal blooms, levels of toxin production, and effects on fish and other aquatic biota.

Eutrophication

Eutrophication - relates to effects of increased nutrient inputs to lakes, springs, rivers and coastal waters, and to standards set by the USEPA and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to limit nutrient inputs to aquatic resources. Citizens are concerned about high costs and potential negative outcomes if nutrients are not controlled effectively. Agriculture is concerned that discharges will be subject to overly restrictive limits. We provide objective science used to set standards that are appropriate for certain water bodies, considering their historical conditions and designated uses.

Exotic Species

Exotic Species - number in the hundreds in Florida's aquatic ecosystems, and include fish, invertebrates and plants. Many citizens are concerned about potential effects on native fish, shellfish and other biota, and this is a focus area for future research in our Department. We also work closely with the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants to examine effects of Hydrilla and other exotic / nuisance plants on ecosystem function and fishery production.

Aquaculture

Aquaculture - focuses on enhancing productivity of hard clam, sturgeon and ornamental fish aquaculture. Citizens who keep aquaria or raise, sell or eat farm-raised seafood reap the benefits of our research, which has helped farmers produce high quality, economically viable products. Two growth areas are: developing new products that interface with traditional agricultural operations to increase revenue and address non-point source runoff issues related to nutrient standards.

Fish Kills and Aquatic Animal Health

Fish Kills and Aquatic Animal Health - focuses on effects of natural and anthropogenic pathogens and toxins on wild and cultured fish. Citizens who live near water or recreate on water are keenly aware that something is wrong when they see dead fish and/or fish with lesions. This Department, in concert with the CVM, examines how toxins and pathogens affect fish in natural systems and in the aquaculture industry, and identifies solutions to reduce risk of those impacts.

Ecosystem Restoration

Ecosystem Restoration - relates to large-scale restoration projects occurring across the state. Citizens are concerned about impacts of altered water flow and other stresses are they are aware that billions of taxpayer dollars are funding these projects. We provide objective science to WMDs and other agencies conducting ecosystem restoration, and they use this information to design effective restoration project.

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