he University of Florida’s new Nature Coast Biological Station will receive a grant to evaluate the spotted seatrout fishery in the Big Bend region. The grant, for $20,000, is provided by The Conservation Fund, a national organization that funds conservation projects that improve local businesses.
The grant is one of five projects from the Conservation Fund that support the priorities of Florida’s four Big Bend counties—Dixie, Jefferson, Levy and Taylor. The region will receive more than $85,000 through the Big Bend Seed Grant program and leverage an additional $240,000 in impact.
The project at the Nature Coast Biological Station, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will assess tagging effectiveness for spotted seatrout, and include an angler survey and workshop to evaluate angler satisfaction with the current management of the fishery. The study will include cooperation from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the group plans to tag fish around Cedar Key and Steinhatchee.
“We plan to hire local fishing guides to help with fish tagging and evaluate spotted seatrout survival after capture and tagging, so the project will benefit businesses in the region,” said Mike Allen, director of the Station. “Our graduate students, Holden Harris and Yasmin Quintana, wrote the proposal to the Conservation Fund, a terrific way to get students involved in conservation and research.”
The project will be followed by a larger effort next year to measure fishing mortality for spotted seatrout, which supports highly valuable recreational fisheries in the Nature Coast region.
Earlier research on the Nature Coast economy demonstrated the critical link between the area’s land and waters and its economic health. The Conservation Fund created the grant program to enhance this connection and support the needs expressed by the region’s leaders. The research team plans to start work on this project in January 2016.