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Finding a prized Florida sportfish

Tallahassee, FL (January 4, 2021) – Manatees aren’t the only wildlife that flee to Florida’s warm springs during the winter. Common Snook (Centropomus undecimalis) also seek warmer waters at this time of year. But we do not know enough about their winter movements to properly protect the prized sportfish.

University of Florida and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists hope to answer that question for the Suwanee River, thanks to a $36,000 grant from the nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida. Using acoustic technology, researchers will track snook movements in the Lower Suwannee to identify where snook are hunkering down to survive cold snaps. This work expands on a previous grant from the foundation, adding an additional year of valuable data.

“This work has critical implications for managing levels of groundwater, as it directly influences the refuges available for cold sensitive species like snook during a vulnerable time of the year,” said Charlie Martin, a research assistant professor with the University of Florida’s Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key.

Having a better understanding of how snook use the Suwanee River during winter months will allow managers to identify critical spring habitats and policymakers to protect it. “The more we learn about this important sportfish, the better able we are to continue to conserve the fishery and help Florida thrive as the Fishing Capital of the World for generations to come,” said FWC executive director Eric Sutton.

Funds for the grant came from the Foundation’s Protect Florida Springs license plate, which contains the image of a scuba diver. Twenty-five dollars from each purchased plate supports conservation of Florida’s unique springs.

“We’re grateful to the many thousands of people who purchase the springs specialty license plate,” said Foundation President and CEO Andrew Walker.  “It allows us to donate up to $250,000/year for springs research, conservation, and education.”

About the University of Florida

The project is led by UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key, Florida in collaboration with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Over the past few years, this partnership has tagged over 100 snook in this area, where snook have increased significantly in the past decade.

About the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission  

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) works to protect and manage more than 575 species of wildlife, 200 species of freshwater fish and 500 species of saltwater fish. The FWC works to balance the needs of these fish and wildlife species and the habitats that support them with the needs of Florida’s population of 21.4 million people and the record number of visitors – more than 131 million last year.

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