Estuaries Day 2014 was celebrated at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve in Eastpoint this year with hundreds of local residents and visitors to the area. The annual event highlights the importance of estuaries nationwide with a focus on our own Apalachicola Bay estuary.
A range of fun and educational activities helped participants learn about animals, ecology and human values derived from these critically important water bodies that occur where rivers meet the sea. Estuaries provide nursery habitat for many Gulf species and are linked to our seafood productivity far from their geographic locations.
The UF/IFAS Extension staff participated in the event with a booth that taught people about the importance of effective methods for returning deep-water fish to their habitat after they have experienced barotrauma due to gas expansion in the swim bladder during ascension. This causes the eyes to bulge and the stomach to be pushed out of the mouth. Fish released in this condition will float on the surface and die. Recent research has shown the use of descending devices can be an effective alternative to venting the fish (puncturing the swim bladder to release gasses).
Extension staff also provided a kid’s fishing activity to allow the little ones to have some fun and encourage them to drag their parents over for a “barotrauma” education! Staff from many resource management agencies participated in the event hosted by the Reserve which is a program of the Florida Coastal Office in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The annual event typically draws between 700-800 people. Free estuary t-shirts funded by local businesses were a nice bonus for this year’s attendees.