South Florida Water Sponsors Snook Study

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is sponsoring a student internship program at Florida International University to monitor the movement patterns of common snook (Centropomus undecimalis) in the Loxahatchee River. Researchers and the public can track movements of the fish, an important recreational species in South Florida, on the Web at: www.adoptafish.net.

The internship supports a research effort that starts with catching snook and implanting a tiny transmitter in each fish's body. The ultrasonic device periodically emits a unique sound at a frequency above that which the human ear can hear. Arrays of automated listening devices are submerged throughout the Loxahatchee River to record the movements of each fish. The data are recorded and uploaded to the Web site.

Researchers and graduate students in the marine sciences program at Florida International University are conducting the internship project in collaboration with SFWMD and the Loxahatchee River District. The fish monitoring research is one of several efforts that will provide data to help the districts manage freshwater flows in the Loxahatchee for the health of the river's ecosystem.

Even minor fluctuations in river conditions, such as salinity or temperature, can affect feeding and/or growth of fish. For example, freshwater discharges into the Northwest Fork of Loxahatchee River can be extremely variable between the wet and the dry seasons. The discharge has an influence on salinity, which may impact fish movement patterns.

Linking fish movement patterns to freshwater input is important to future water management planning. The project also will help train scientists and students studying estuarine systems and promote stewardship of local water resources.

The SFWMD has long supported restoration of the Loxahatchee system with several key projects to protect and improve its health. The district also developed minimum flow and levels for the river, establishing criteria that limit water use withdrawals to protect the resource from significant harm.

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