Tuna fishing meter

November 14th, 2012

Effects of DWH Oil spill on Ecosystem Services of the GOM

November 11th, 2011

Committee on the Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Mississippi Canyon-252 Oil Spill on Ecosystem Services in the Gulf of Mexico; National Research Council.

On April 20th 2010, the Deepwater Horizon platform drilling the Macondo well in Mississippi Canyon Block 252 (DWH) exploded, killing 11 workers and injuring another 17. The DWH oil spill resulted in nearly 5 million barrels (approximately 200 million gallons) of crude oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). The full impacts of the spill on the GoM and the people who live and work there are unknown but expected to be considerable, and will be expressed over years to decades. In the short term, up to 80,000 square miles of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) were closed to fishing, resulting in loss of food, jobs and recreation.

The DWH oil spill immediately triggered a process under the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) to determine the extent and severity of the “injury” (defined as an observable or measurable adverse change in a natural resource or impairment of a natural resource service) to the public trust, known as the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA). The assessment, undertaken by the trustees (designated technical experts who act on behalf of the public and who are tasked with assessing the nature and extent of site-related contamination and impacts), requires: (1) quantifying the extent of damage; (2) developing, implementing, and monitoring restoration plans; and (3) seeking compensation for the costs of assessment and restoration from those deemed responsible for the injury.

This interim report provides options for expanding the current effort to include the analysis of ecosystem services to help address the unprecedented scale of this spill in U.S. waters and the challenges it presents to those charged with undertaking the damage assessment.

David J. Die (CIMAS) is a co-author of this report


Veronique Koch wins Suncoast Emmy® award

December 7th, 2010


Véronique Koch won a Suncoast Emmy® for her work on the “Changing Seas” episode “Sentinels of the Seas” on Saturday night at the awards ceremony at the Westin Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale. The category was Health/Science/Environment. She has been an associate producer for the WPBT-2 show since 2009.  Veronique is a CUFER student currently finishing her MBF master’s degree at RSMAS, but started her own production company, Vero Productions (www.veroproductions.com), in 2008 to produce videos with scientific and environmental themes. “I want to produce media with a purpose, and Changing Seas is the perfect fit for me. It is a show about our oceans and the challenges they are facing now.” Producer Alexa Elliott and associate producer Kandra Velez started the show shortly before Véronique joined the team. “It has been such a blessing to work with such a great team. We all contribute to the show in different ways and it is truly teamwork.” The episode that was awarded, “Sentinels of the Seas”, is about the contaminants such as legacy contaminants and other pollutants that people are putting into our waters that are finding their way up the food chain, and eventually into human beings through the seafood they consume. Dolphins, however, are the proverbial “canaries in the coalmine” since they rely on the oceans completely, and show symptoms associated with the contaminants first. Excerpts from the show can be seen at www.changingseas.tv and www.youtube.com/user/changingseas.

Vessel Surveys on Florida’s Gulf Coast

December 6th, 2010

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Graduate student Steve Saul has been traveling to various fishing communities along Florida’s Gulf Coast to disseminate and collect surveys from captains of vessels that commercially fish for reef fish.  While visiting the Pan-Handle, Steve persented two of the chapters of his thesis to the NOAA Fisheries Panama City Laboratory in Panama City, Florida.  Some of the data that these parts of his thesis use was collected by the scientists at the Panama City lab. 

The purpose of this work is to understand and quantify the way that commercial reef fish captains make different decisions when fishing.  The results of these surveys will be used to develop economic choice models, which will driving fishing behavior in an individually-based simulation model.  The model will be used to study the effect of fisher behavior on catch per unit effort (CPUE) and will explore ways of using fisher information to reduce fisher behavior as a source of variance from standardized CPUE abundance indexes.


San Pedro Fishing Village Visit

November 18th, 2010


From November 5th to the 10th, Ph.D. student Mandy Karnauskas traveled to the Dominican Republic along with Peter Chaibongsai from The Billfish Foundation to work with a group of pelagic artisanal fishermen in the village of La Punta de Pescadores, San Pedro de Macorís.  Karnauskas and Chaibongsai have been working with these fishermen since 2007, with the goal of learning about their unique fishing operations and discussing with them the importance of management of pelagic fishing stocks.  Fishers who have assisted in management efforts, such as the reporting of billfish tags, have been rewarded with safety equipment such as radios.  Such equipment greatly decreases chances of fishers being lost at sea (one fisher who did not have any such safety equipment tragically died at sea just two weeks before our most recent visit).  A local community leader, Modesto Sanchez Lopez, has served a crucial role in serving as a liaison between fishers and scientists.


Recent activities built on information collected by Karnauskas in March 2010, when interviews were conducted with 20 fishers in order to better understand the needs of the fishing community.  Accomplishments during the recent visit included meetings with fishers who are attempting to organize themselves into a fishing cooperative.  Such an organization would allow fishers to regain greater control over market prices, and would allow them access to organizational benefits such as health insurance and bank loans to purchase new equipment.  Another finding from the interviews was that fishers were severely impacted by a “green water” event in April-May 2009, during which they could not catch any fish.  The cause of this event was the Orinoco River Plume, which was anomalously large and severe in 2009 due to climatic forces, and this information was shared with the community through a public presentation.  Fishers were excited to finally understand the cause of this event which had so negatively impacted their livelihoods, but more importantly were interested to hear that the likelihood of the event could be predicted in future years.

Karnauskas was lucky enough to find information to assist these fishers right here at home on Virginia Key; a team headed by Dr. Libby Johns at NOAA-AOML has carried out detailed studies of the Orinoco River Plume.  Such research is extremely important to these fishers, as these climatic anomalies can prevent them from earning any income for months at a time and thus severely impact their livelihood.

2010 GCFI Meeting

November 12th, 2010

Mandy Karnauskas and Dominique Lazarre traveled to San Juan Puerto Rico to attend the 63rd Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Meeting from November 1-5.  The meeting brought together scientists and fishers to discuss the state of fisheries throughout the region, as well as to showcase new research being undertaken.  Mandy presented a poster that compared abundance estimates generated from underwater visual census to those from catch per unit effort in a patch reef system, which one the student prize for best poster presentation.  Both participated in a lionfish session that discussed the current affects of the Indo-Pacific invader on the region, as well as the management plans that have been initiated to deal with the lionfish’s potential threat.

2010 WCPFC Scientific Committee

September 14th, 2010

Francesca Forrestal traveled to Nuku’alofa, Tonga to attend the 6th Regular Session of the Scientific Committee for the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (August 10-19) as an observer for the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation. Member countries from throughout the Pacific attended as well several NGOs. Of particular interest were the new stock assessments for both bigeye tuna and skipjack tuna. It was reported to the Scientific Committee that bigeye tuna is being overfished but is not yet in an overfished state while skipjack is being moderately exploited but is not being overfished in the Western Pacific.

2010 CRFM Scientific Meeting

July 26th, 2010

A few CRFM participants

Dominique Lazarre and David Die traveled to Kingstown (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) to attend the annual scientific meeting of the Caribbean Regional Fishery Mechanism.  During the meeting (June 10th to June 18th 2010) Dominique worked with Caribbean colleagues and Dr. John Hoenig from VIMS on the assessment of reef fishery resources.  Dominique also presented a summary of her dissertation project during the plenary session of the meeting.  Countries of the Lesser Antilles are the only ones that have not yet reported Lionfish whereas this Pacific species has now been reported in all other Caribbean countries so Dominique’s presentation was of great interest to participants.  David Die participated in the stock assessment of dolphinfish.

LMRCSC Student weekend & 3rd Annual Aquatic and Fisheries Science Symposium

April 29th, 2010


The LMRCSC hosted its 1st student weekend along with the 3rd Annual Aquatic and Fisheries Science Symposium hosted by the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) American Fisheries Society Student Subunit on March 26-28th 2010, in Ocean City, Maryland. A group of RSMAS contributed to the success of this meeting: Dr. David Die and students Sue Ebanks, Xaymara Serrano, Dominique Lazarre and Dwight Ebanks. Students not only had the opportunity to network with fellow peers from the LMRCSC but also presented posters based on their Ph.D. research topics. Xaymara Serrano obtained the best poster award.


Dwight Ebanks, Daniel Benetti and Nelson Ehrhardt. The Influence of Environmental Hypercapnia on Cobia, Rachycentron canadum.

Xaymara Serrano and A. Baker. Coral connectivity between deep and shallow sites in the tropical western Atlantic: Deep water refugia as potential sources of replenishment following coral bleaching

Dominique Lazarre and David Die. Analysis of Indo-Pacific Lionfish Invasion: A Model of Species Range Extension

Sue C. Ebanks, M.J. O’Donnell, and M. Grosell. Characterization of mechanisms for Ca2+ and HCO3-/CO32- acquisition for shell formation in embryos of the freshwater common pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis

New peer review papers by CUFER doctoral students

April 14th, 2010

Two of our recent CUFER graduates Katie Drew and Kristin Kleisner, have recently published part of the research they conducted while they were doctoral students at UM-CUFER:

Robert Keller Kopf, Katherine Drew and Robert L. Humphreys Jr. (2010) Age estimation of billfishes (Kajikia spp.) using fin spine cross-sections: the need for an international code of practice. Aquatic Living Resources, 23: 13-24.

Kristin M. Kleisner, John F. Walter, III, Sandra L. Diamond and David J. Die (in press). Modeling the spatial autocorrelation of pelagic fish abundance. Marine Ecology Progress Series.