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Tallahassee, February 9, 2011  

TALLAHASSEE– On Wednesday, February 9, 2011 a bipartisan group of state legislators and environmental groups called for amending of the Florida Constitution to ban oil drilling in our state’s near shore waters. Reef Relief’s State Policy and Programs Director, Paul Johnson, was on hand to lend support of the initiative. “Our state waters extend approximately three miles into the Atlantic Ocean and 10 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. As our economy depends so greatly upon tourism, and our beautiful beaches, coral reefs and other marine ecosystems, we cannot risk the jobs of so many Floridians by allowing oil drilling right on our coastline, nor can we risk the despoiling of our environment”. Johnson said.
Also present at the press event outside the old Capitol were past and present political leaders of Florida including CFO Alex Sink, Governor Charlie Crist, Senator Durrell Peaden, Representative Darren Soto, Representative Rick Kriseman and other state leaders who want to protect our jobs and our environment, no matter political affiliation. “We are all Floridians, no matter which party we happen to be in. We must ensure that what makes Florida so attractive to visitors and new Floridians is preserved and make sure our economy and environment are not placed in jeopardy” stated Rep. Soto(Crestview). The event featured a faux-sand dune complete with beach vegetation.
Floridians will hopefully be allowed to vote on whether oil drilling will be allowed on the coast in one of two ways. Rep. Rick Kriseman (St. Pete) has proposed a Joint Resolution, HJR 383, co-sponsored by Rep. Soto, which, if approved by the Florida House and Senate, would place the issue before the voting public in November. The second is a statewide petition drive, which Reef Relief is a part of, requiring 678,811 signatures from registered Florida voters before Feb 1, 2012 to get on the November ballot.
Reef Relief, along with other concerned organizations has begun that citizens’ petition campaign to place the issue on the ballot.  “The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster devastated the economy of the Panhandle and it did not even reach Florida beaches in any great quantity.  Imagine if that spill had been right on our coast.” said Florida Wildlife Federation President, Manley K. Fuller, also Save our Seas, Beaches and Shores, Inc. Chairman, which is leading the citizen signature campaign.
“The Florida Keys are one of the most vulnerable locations on the planet to potentially suffer from oil and gas activities”, said Paul Johnson “We cannot afford another drilling accident, especially in Florida or Cuba waters, that would quickly decimate the shallow water environmental resources that support the life blood of fishing and tourism economies in the Keys – “Let the people decide!”
The website for SOSBS,, has a downloadable petition that can be filled in, signed and mailed. Petitions are also available on Reef Relief’s website – go to Blogs, category FL No Oil Drilling Petition. Only registered Florida voters may sign the petition.
The Skinny on Hunting Lionfish!
by, Rudy Bonn, Reef Relief’s Director of Marine Projects
I thought I would clarify a few things concerning the Lionfish invasion here in the Keys, and elsewhere, but first a little background information.
The Indo-Pacific Lionfish, Pterois volitans and P. miles are members of the scorpion fish family, Scorpenidae.  These fish are considered to be nocturnal predators, feeding upon small fishes and crustaceans such as shrimp.  Gut content analysis has demonstrated that these two items form the bulk of prey items found in the stomachs of lionfish.  However, a large percentage of items found in the stomachs of lionfish were unidentifiable due to advanced digestion.  They are generally considered to be generalist piscivores (fish eating) and it has been documented that over 40 different species of fishes have been found and identified through gut analysis from 20 different families of fishes including Serranidae (sea basses and groupers), and Lutjanidae (snappers).  Their impact upon marine food webs and trophic levels are still being assessed through scientific research.  What we do know is that the lionfish were introduced into the waters of the western Atlantic via the aquarium trade.  Since the initial introduction this species has invaded the eastern seaboard of the United States, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico and other areas.
In terms of their reproduction, it has been documented that the species mature relatively early in their life history and produce eggs several times per month throughout the year and thus explains the wide distribution of the species that we see today.Lionfish have the potential to reduce ecologically important species that contribute to the health and sustainability of coral reef ecosystems.  For example, parrotfish and other herbivores which help to keep sea weeds and algae from overgrowing coral reefs have been found in the stomachs of lionfish.
Another probable impact, one of which that has been ignored in the literature is the high probability of divers hunting lionfish coming into physical contact with the corals themselves.  Lionfish are cryptic and prefer to hide under ledges and in recesses of the reef during the daylight hours and it is this behavior that will increase the probability of hunters coming into contact with the reef.
 Corals are protected by a thin, mucous membrane and physical contact will result in that protective membrane being torn, thus allowing for potential access of disease organisms and other pathogens  to the coral tissue.
The same holds true for folks hunting lobsters as these organisms also prefer to hide in recesses in the reef during the daylight hours.
Human impacts to coral reef ecosystems are well documented and include everything from green house gas emissions, pollution, over fishing, and many others.  When hunting lionfish or lobster, please take with you your most important weapon, that is your conscious, and please avoid coming into physical contact with the corals.
For more information concerning lionfish and to report sightings call Reef Relief 305-294-3100.
Incidentally, lionfish make for excellent table fare, just be careful when cleaning as their spines do contain venom and they can deliver a nasty sting.
The best treatment for a lionfish sting is to soak the injury in water as hot as you can possibly stand, it will help to draw out the venom and denature the proteins contained in the venom.  Medical treatment by a doctor is also recommended.
photo source: The Pew Charitable Trust

Stronger Bluefin Protections Are Still Needed

Thank NMFS for taking a step in the right direction and ask them to go further!

Surface longlines used to catch swordfish and yellowfin tuna also catch and kill hundreds of spawning Western Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico every year. To protect these severely depleted fish in their only known spawning area in the Western Atlantic, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) just proposed that Gulf surface longline fishermen use an
experimental hook that could reduce the incidental catch of bluefin. “This action is a step in the right direction, but it is not a strong, long-term solution”, said Paul Johnson, Reef Relief State Policy and Program Director.
“Weak” hooks are designed to fail when an extremely heavy fish like an adult bluefin is caught. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of these new hooks in reducing the number of bluefin killed is yet unknown”. There is limited data suggesting that these hooks will reduce the number of bluefin that are hauled onto fishing boats, but the number that die on longlines before haul back is unknown.
Surface longlines catch and kill a vast amount of ocean wildlife including spawning bluefin tuna, blue marlin, white marlin and leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles. Weak hooks may provide limited protection for bluefin, but this action will do little for other species caught and killed by the gear.
 A year-round prohibition on surface longlines is the only way to provide effective long-term protection from this indiscriminate fishing gear. This ban would still allow fishermen to catch swordfish and yellowfin tuna, they would just be required to use more selective alternatives to surface longlines.
Reef Relief, as an active  member of the national Marine Fish Conservation Network, has signed onto a letter by the Pew Environmental Group and others to request NMFS to come up with stronger actions to protect bluefin tuna in the Gulf . You can too!

January 29, 2011 Key West Clean-up
The Key West High School Reef Relief club, Reef Relief staff, and the Lost Bus crew partnered with Lazy Dog and Hurricane Hole on a mangrove/shoreline clean up. We removed 600 pounds of debris including tires, fishing and trap line, a refrigerator, car batteries, lawn furniture, plastics, and metals.
– Join online by clicking the donate now button or go to  
– Join by calling Reef Relief at 305-294-3100
– Mail your donation to: Reef Relief P.O. Box 430, Key West, FL 33041
– Or visit Reef Relief’s Environmental Center at 631 Greene St. in Key West
Thank you for your continued support!!
P.O. Box 430 | Key West, FL 33041-0430 US