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BUCK ISLAND LOBSTERS BEING COUNTED

April 15, 2004 – How many lobsters are hiding behind the coral and under rocks at Buck Island Reef National Monument? What affect has years of heavy lobstering followed by a prohibition had on the population there?
To find answers a team from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is making up to six dives a day.
The park expanded from 704 acres to 18,135 acres in 2001 and a prohibition on fishing within its boundaries went into effect. Until the park expansion fishermen were allowed to take two lobsters a day.
"It's been heavily lobstered," said Zandy Hillis-Starr, the park's chief of resource management.
Already the team, funded in part by $50,000 from the National Park Service, has made a few discoveries. When divers were here on a preliminary visit in November 2003, they found lobsters with eggs. "That's past the time in Florida," said Carrollyn Cox, an assistant research scientist with the Florida Marine Research Institute.
She added that in areas where lobstering was previously allowed, but was now prohibited, an increase in the size and number of lobsters has been noted.
The team has been surveying lobsters for eight years. Their studies include Florida projects in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Biscayne National Park.
The Buck Island project is getting help from the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission. It is picking up the tab for salaries of the seven-person team from its Florida Marine Research Institute.
The Institute staff is setting up 20 collectors to catch baby lobsters. The collectors, which officials ask people not to disturb, are located in the South Lagoon, East End underwater trail area, North Lagoon, and southwestern shoreline patch reef area, all located near Buck Island.
"They'll be there for a year," Hillis-Starr said.
The collectors are marked with yellow or white fish floats. The team will leave April 28 but return in June and September to monitor the project. The local Monument staff ultimately will take over the project.
Researchers are also looking into the sex life of the lobsters and where they travel after birth.
Hillis-Starr said that sea currents carry lobsters away from their birth area.
"We need to find out if we've got babies going in," she said.
Hillis-Starr said the Buck Island serves as a nursery and refuge for Caribbean spiny lobsters. They're important parts of the marine ecosystem because they clean up dead animals and fish when they scavenge over the reef.
"But they prefer snails," Hillis-Starr said.
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April 15, 2004 - How many lobsters are hiding behind the coral and under rocks at Buck Island Reef National Monument? What affect has years of heavy lobstering followed by a prohibition had on the population there?
To find answers a team from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is making up to six dives a day.
The park expanded from 704 acres to 18,135 acres in 2001 and a prohibition on fishing within its boundaries went into effect. Until the park expansion fishermen were allowed to take two lobsters a day.
"It's been heavily lobstered," said Zandy Hillis-Starr, the park's chief of resource management.
Already the team, funded in part by $50,000 from the National Park Service, has made a few discoveries. When divers were here on a preliminary visit in November 2003, they found lobsters with eggs. "That's past the time in Florida," said Carrollyn Cox, an assistant research scientist with the Florida Marine Research Institute.
She added that in areas where lobstering was previously allowed, but was now prohibited, an increase in the size and number of lobsters has been noted.
The team has been surveying lobsters for eight years. Their studies include Florida projects in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Biscayne National Park.
The Buck Island project is getting help from the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission. It is picking up the tab for salaries of the seven-person team from its Florida Marine Research Institute.
The Institute staff is setting up 20 collectors to catch baby lobsters. The collectors, which officials ask people not to disturb, are located in the South Lagoon, East End underwater trail area, North Lagoon, and southwestern shoreline patch reef area, all located near Buck Island.
"They'll be there for a year," Hillis-Starr said.
The collectors are marked with yellow or white fish floats. The team will leave April 28 but return in June and September to monitor the project. The local Monument staff ultimately will take over the project.
Researchers are also looking into the sex life of the lobsters and where they travel after birth.
Hillis-Starr said that sea currents carry lobsters away from their birth area.
"We need to find out if we've got babies going in," she said.
Hillis-Starr said the Buck Island serves as a nursery and refuge for Caribbean spiny lobsters. They're important parts of the marine ecosystem because they clean up dead animals and fish when they scavenge over the reef.
"But they prefer snails," Hillis-Starr said.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice... click here.