Participate in the Sea Urchin Roundup on Saturday, May 6, 2023
“FDEP’s Central Panhandle Aquatic Preserves and FWC are going to have their 5th Urchin Round Up on St. Joseph Bay on Saturday May 6th 2023!
Help collect live urchins from St. Joseph Bay in a roundup beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 6, 2023. The collected urchins – which destroy seagrasses by overgrazing – will be relocated to deeper water.
Bring your own boat and snorkeling gear. Event organizers will provide buckets and gloves. Check-in begins at 8 a.m. at Frank Pate Park in Port St. Joe! Hope to see you out there!”
For More Information contact DEP’s St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve Manager, Jon Brucker: Jonathan.Brucker@FloridaDEP.gov
St. Joseph Bay, located in Gulf County in the Panhandle, once contained extensive beds of seagrass and supported an abundant scallop fishery. Residents and visitors enjoyed extensive, pristine seagrass beds and clear bay waters. Summertime recreational scallop harvesting contributed greatly to the local economy. Seagrass beds in the bay are dominated by turtle grass which also provide food for abundant green sea turtles. The scallop fishery has become depleted in recent years, algal blooms are more frequent, and the acreage of seagrass beds has decreased. An overabundance of sea urchins (Lytechinus spp.) continues to destroy turtle grass beds through overgrazing. This project will jump start natural recovery of seagrass by installing exclosures over grazed areas to allow seagrasses to grow back without sea urchin grazing pressure. In addition, sea urchin roundups, public outreach events, will involve citizens to remove sea urchins from active grazing fronts. The animals will be released in deeper areas of the bay at a distance from grazed areas.
This project is a partnership between FWRI and the Central Panhandle Aquatic Preserves of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Staff from both agencies are maintaining the exclosures, monitoring the abundance of sea urchins quarterly, assessing sea grass abundance by in-water and mapping surveys, and measuring water quality monthly.