News

Welcome 2021!

 

2020 is gone and 2021 brings an expectation that new vaccines will save lives and push back the COVID-19 pandemic to allow us all to begin returning to normal, or at least a reasonable new normal. Perdido Key continues to recover from Hurricane Sally with many homes, rental properties, and commercial establishments still being repaired or reconstructed. Our island is resilient and will remain a wonderful place to live and visit! The PKA Board of Directors wishes all a most Happy New Year!

2021 PKA Annual Membership Meeting

 

A reminder to place the PKA Annual Membership Meeting on your calendars. It will be held Saturday, February 27, 2021 from 10 AM until Noon at the Eden Condominium. The featured speaker will be Escambia County District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill. The Eden is equipping its Conference Rooms so personnel can attend in-person and others can watch remotely on Zoom. PKA members should receive the meeting announcement with voting proxy, agenda, and membership renewal form by the end of January 2021. Additional information will be passed on by e-mail closer to the date of the meeting.

Perdido Key Property Owner Survey on the Way!

 

The 2020 Perdido Key Property Owner Survey results will be printed and mailed shortly. Be on the lookout for your copy to arrive by late-January 2021. And thanks and congratulations for your participation – over three-quarters of PKA members completed and returned the survey form!

Superintendent Dan Brown of Gulf Islands National Seashore to Retire

 

Dan Brown has been Superintendent of Gulf Islands National Seashore since 2010 but will retire effective January 2, 2021. He is a native of Colorado and has had assignments across the United States in his more than 43 years in the National Park Service, including in Washington State, Colorado, and Louisiana. During his term as Superintendent, he combated the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, established ferry service from Pensacola to Pensacola Beach and the National Seashore, and began recovering operations from Hurricane Sally. The Perdido Key Association was privileged to have Superintendent Brown as a featured speaker at its 2017 Annual Membership Meeting. He plans to remain in the Pensacola area following retirement. For more on Superintendent Brown, see the December 10, 2020 National Park Service news release “National Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown to Retire After Remarkable Career” at

https://www.nps.gov/guis/learn/news/national-seashore-superintendent-dan-brown-to-retire-after-remarkable-career.htm.

Hurricane Sally Strikes Severe Blow to Perdido Key

 

It was supposed to be a Category 1 storm with lots of rain, but Hurricane Sally turned into a dangerous and multimillion dollar disaster for Perdido Key and its neighbors. The storm pummeled the area beginning on Tuesday September 15 and did not end until late afternoon on Wednesday September 16. Those who rode it out will remember its howling winds and brutal rainfall and for those who lost their roofs and were otherwise in danger, the memories are likely indelible. Almost every business and residence on Perdido Key was surely affected by the storm as the debris lining Perdido Key Drive, River Road, and other island streets attests; some homes were totally destroyed. Driving through Escambia County one quickly recognizes that Perdido Key was not alone in having significant damage. The loss of life was particularly tragic.

Looking forward, roads were re-opened as downed trees and other debris were quickly pushed aside; many received water and power relatively soon following the storm and the great number of power company vehicles in the County attested to the enormous efforts made at restoration. Refuse collection from the storm has been equally impressive and continues as shown by the enormous mound of mulch in the field across from the Naval Hospital on Rt. 98 from debris brought by a steady stream of two-trailer trucks. We thank our first responders, utilities and all supporting personnel for their concern and work to keep Perdido Key and all Escambia County residents safe and their help in moving as quickly as possible back to some sort of normalcy. Safe passage to all.

Perdido Key Association - Hurricane Sally

Triumph Gulf Coast Grants

 

The Triumph Gulf Coast board voted in favor of granting $18 million in new grants for projects in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Bay and Walton counties. Triumph is one of several funds established as a result of penalties from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster; it is focused on economic development and providing new jobs for the region. In Escambia County, Triumph staff will begin negotiations for a possible $6,078,795 grant for the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition while Santa Rosa County was awarded a grant for infrastructure improvements at Santa Rosa Industrial Park East. For more on this issue, see the December 18, 2020 Northwest Florida Daily News article “Triumph Gulf Coast doles out nearly $18M ahead of holiday season” by Tom McLaughlin at https://www.nwfdailynews.com/story/news/2020/12/18/triumph-gulf-coast-board-approves-18-million-northwest-florida/3954770001/.

Starflyer Thrill Ride May Come to Gulf Shores

 

The Hangout restaurant in Gulf Shores is reportedly planning to apply for a conditional use permit to construct a 213-foot Starflyer swing attraction. The ride would be within the current Hangout location. Other Starflyer attractions include a 450-foot swing ride in Orlando. For more on this issue, see the November 18, 2020 Mullet Wrapper article “Hangout delays request for 213 ft. Starflyer until at least Jan.” by John Mullen at https://mulletwrapper.net/hangout-delays-request-for-213-ft-starflyer-until-at-least-jan/.

Johnson Beach Breaches and Oil Contamination

 

Johnson Beach (the Perdido Key Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore) was particularly affected by Hurricane Sally. Closed after the storm, the park reopened on Saturday, October 3, 2020 but only at the main parking lot and pavilion location. Sally tore three breaches in the remote eastern portion of the park south of Robertson Island leaving three islands in its wake. According to Park Superintendent Dan Brown, similar breaches have happened before because of the narrowness and low level of the park in that area. Because Pensacola Pass traps much of the east-west flow of sand along the Northwest Florida Coast, Superintendent Brown does not expect natural process to heal the breaches. Sally also destroyed the Discovery Trail not far from the park entrance. For more on the park see the September 22, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “A Florida Island has turned into multiple islands after Hurricane Sally slices through” by Kevin Robinson at https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/09/22/hurricane-sally-forms-three-breaches-floridas-east-perdido-key/5863650002/ and the October 2, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Some Gulf Islands National Seashore areas begin reopening on Saturday” at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/10/02/gulf-islands-national-seashore-areas-begin-reopening-saturday/3596193001/.

 

Hurricane Sally was also likely responsible for a half mile of oil contaminated beaches on Johnson Beach. Originally reported as five miles of contamination, the source of oil has not been determined but according to cleanup personnel appeared to be “weathered and old oil.” 3,750 pounds of the oil-contaminated sand was removed from the beach in a US Coast Guard-led effort. For more on this issue, see the September 29, 2020 WEAR report “More oil washes up along 5 miles of Johnson Beach on Perdido Key” by Rebekah Castor at https://weartv.com/news/local/more-oil-washes-up-along-5-miles-of-johnson-beach-on-perdido-key, October 9, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Oil only washed up on half-mile stretch of Johnson Beach on Perdido Key” by Jim Little at  https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/10/09/oil-johnson-beach-only-washed-up-half-mile-area-u-s-coast-guard/5939066002/, and the October 16, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “3,750 pounds of oil-contaminated sand removed from Johnson Beach” by Jim Little available at https://www.msn.com/EN-US/news/us/3-750-pounds-of-sand-and-oil-removed-from-johnson-beach-after-hurricane-sally/ar-BB1a6ZHn?ocid=FinanceShimLayer.

Gulf Islands National Seashore Damage

 

Gulf Islands National Seashore, including its Perdido Key Area, suffered $4.5 million in damage from Hurricane Sally and will not be getting any extra funding to make repairs. Park Superintendent Dan Brown stated “We have this very, very long list of storm recovery projects and we’re having to prioritize them.” $2 million will be required for road repairs and $1.2 million for repair of the ferry pier. The main parking area at Perdido Key, Naval Live Oaks, and Okaloosa portion of the park are open; the Ft. Pickens area and campgrounds reopened in early-December having been delayed by road damage which has been only temporarily repaired. Other areas of the Park remain closed such as the ferry pier and Highway 399 between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach. For more on National Seashore recovery from Sally, see the November 21, 2020 article “Gulf Islands estimates $4.5 million in damage from Sally in Florida” at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/11/20/gulf-islands-estimates-4-5-million-damage-sally-florida/3777695001/ and the December 03, 2020 article “Fort Pickens will reopen Saturday; almost three months after Sally” at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/12/03/fort-pickens-reopen-saturday-three-months-after-hurricane-sally/3812982001/, both by Madison Arnold in the Pensacola News Journal.

At Alabama’s Gulf State Park

 

Dune Restoration – Alabama’s Gulf State Park is conducting sea oats planting on Monday and Thursday from 10 AM until noon to help heal dunes damaged by September 2020’s Hurricane Sally – public participation is welcome; if interested, RSVP cindy.langston@dcnr.alabama.gov. Drawn from Fox 10 News December 03, 2020 article “Gulf State Park asks for your help restoring dunes after Sally” by Ashlyn Irons at https://www.fox10tv.com/news/gulf-state-park-asks-for-your-help-restoring-dunes-after-sally/article_bf9af0de-358b-11eb-b8ab-bb996ace9b46.html.

 

Gulf State Park Pier – The shoreward half of Gulf State Park Pier is expected to reopen sometime in December 2020, though repairs to Hurricane Sally damage are still required for the remainder – including the breach in the Pier near the southern octagon section. In the interim, naturalist-led tours for those 18 and older will be available on December 16, 19, 23, 26, and 30. Registration can be made at cindy.langston@denr.alabama.gov; the cost is $3 a person. Drawn from the articles “Gulf State Park Pier may open this month” by David Thornton and “GPS Naturalists offering tours of pier during repairs” at https://mulletwrapper.net/gsp-naturalists-offering-tours-of-pier-during-repairs/, both from the December 2-16, 2020 Mullet Wrapper.

First Mini-Grants Awarded in Estuary Program

 

Nine mini-grants were awarded a total of for $200,000 from the “Pensacola and Perdido Bay Estuary Programs,” the first to take advantage of $500,000 in Florida state funds made available “to improve water quality and raise public awareness about the two bays and their watersheds.” For more on the grants, see the December 03, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program awards $200,000 to improve water quality” by Jim Little at

https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/12/03/pensacola-and-perdido-bays-estuary-program-awards-200-000-grants/3812071001/.

Pensacola Beach Development Cap Affirmed

 

The dwelling cap of 4,128 units for Pensacola Beach was adopted in 1993 and is allocated by subdivisions. A request to increase the number of homes in Santa Rosa Villas was denied in a recent First Circuit Court of Florida decision, though other challenges are expected. For more on the issue, see the December 9, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Cap that limits Pensacola Beach to 4,128 wins legal challenge; another coming” by Madison Arnold at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/12/09/cap-pensacola-beach-homes-wins-legal-challenge-another-coming/3862982001/.

Pensacola Beach Renourishment by 2026

 

The Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) anticipates Pensacola Beach will need beach renourishment in about 5 years, having most recently been renourished in 2016 at a cost of $16 million. Beach erosion has continued through normal processes but also recent storms, including September 2020’s Hurricane Sally. $500,000 is set aside each year by SRIA for renourishment which is anticipated every 10 to 12 years, but additional funding will likely be required for the project. For more on the issue, see the December 11, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Pensacola Beach will need a $20 million renourishment by 2026. SRIA can’t do it alone” by Madison Arnold at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/12/11/pensacola-beach-need-20-million-nourishment-2026/3879355001/?itm_medium=recirc&itm_source=taboola&itm_campaign=internal&itm_content=BelowArticleFeed-FeedRedesign.

Sperm Whale in Mobile Bay

 

A sperm whale was stranded in Mobile Bay but had to be euthanized. According to Dr. Ruth Carmichael of the Dauphin Island Sea Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network, “This animal who was suffering and unable to swim and survive any longer in the wild.” It was apparently “the first documented case of a stranded sperm whale in Alabama waters.” For more on the issue, see December 2-16 Mullet Wrapper article “Sperm whale stranded in Mobile Bay near Montrose” at https://mulletwrapper.net/sperm-whale-stranded-in-mobile-bay-near-montrose/.

Local State Park Update after Sally

 

Perdido Key State Park is closed until further notice because its infrastructure was severely damaged by Hurricane Sally and must be rebuilt. The photo shows volunteers with State Park Ranger Emily Price helping remove debris from the West Use Area of the Park.

Bayou Tarkiln State Park trails are open on the west side of Bauer Road.

Big Lagoon State Park campgrounds and boat launch are open, but pavilions and trails remain closed. Volunteers organized by the Friends of Pensacola State Parks (such as Jim and Jane Campbell in the photo) continue to gather debris left by Sally while heavy equipment has been removing heavier items.

Cleanups of Big Lagoon State Park are scheduled for every Wednesday beginning at 9 AM.

Alabama’s Gulf State Park Upgrade and Fort Morgan Boat Ramp Repairs

 

The Lake Shelby area of Gulf State Park is closed for a number of upgrades including to playgrounds, dog parks, restrooms, and parking areas. Other work will improve parking at the fishing pier and add amenities for volunteers and events. Elsewhere in Baldwin County, the public boat ramps at the Fort Morgan basin and near Mile 7 on Fort Morgan Road were damaged by Hurricane’s Sally and Zeta and will remain closed until January 2021. Drawn from the November 4-8, 2020 Mullet Wrapper articles “Enlargement project begins around Lake Shelby at Gulf State Park” and “Two Fort Morgan public boat ramps will remain closed ‘til January.”

Florida Tourism and Visit Pensacola

 

Tourist dollars help fund the Florida state budget and support up to 1.5 million jobs, but third quarter tourism in Florida was almost 32% below the same period last year – not surprising given the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit Florida officials are nonetheless optimistic because of marketing initiatives and improvement in tourism from earlier in 2020. According to Visit Pensacola, the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Perdido Key, visitors typically spend about $938 million a year and support 19,000 jobs in the Pensacola area. Visit Pensacola has endured a budget reduction of 26% with more cuts likely, but new president and CEO Darien Schaefer remains optimistic and is looking forward to “investing in the people working in hospitality, telling more locals about what Visit Pensacola does and how it’s spending tax money and getting ‘creative’ with the budget it does have.”

On a bright note, the Perdido Key Visitors Center has reopened and is maintaining normal hours of operation. For more on these issues, go to the November 20, 2020 article “Florida’s tourism sees nearly 32% drop in visitors during Q3 as business restrictions lift” at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/11/20/floridas-tourism-sees-nearly-32-drop-visitors-during-q-3/6348569002/ and the November 10, 2020 article “’This year will forever have an asterisk on it’: Visit Pensacola talks 2020, ideas for recovery” by Madison Arnold at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/local/2020/11/10/visit-pensacola-reflects-2020-tourism-difficulties-2021-recovery/6225327002/, both in the Pensacola News Journal.

New Perdido Key Beach Access Moves Ahead

 

At its July 22, 2020 meeting, the Escambia County Board of Adjustment (BOA) denied the Seafarer Condominium appeal of the Development Order for construction of a new beach access location at 16477 Perdido Key Drive, just east of the Crab Trap Restaurant. The County has conducted initial site work to remove debris from the former condominium site and asphalt parking area. Prior to construction of a beach access location, the County needs additional approvals from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Perdido Key Habitat Conservation Plan and to develop a management plan. There is also an appeal filed with the Circuit Court on approval of conditional use of the site and the Seafarer has the option to appeal the recent BOA denial with the Circuit Court.

Natural Gas on Perdido Key

 

Since 2015 natural gas lines have been installed on Perdido Key by Pensacola Energy, though the service does not go to all streets. To determine if gas service is available for a particular location, contact the Pensacola Energy Marketing Desk at 850 436-5050.

Jaco’s Coming to Perdido Key Area

 

The owner of Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grill near the Palafox Pier Marina in downtown Pensacola is purchasing the former Triggers Restaurant and Wolf Bay Lounge on Gulf Beach Highway. The new restaurant will “adopt much of the downtown location’s food and drink menu, but plans to add a few more seafood dishes to cater to tourist-friendly Perdido Key.” For more on the issue, see the December 30, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grill plans to open second location in Perdido Key in 2021” by Jake Newby at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/12/30/jacos-bayfront-bar-grille-open-new-perdido-key-location-2021/4072763001/.  

Dollar General on Gulf Beach Hwy

Construction of the Dollar General store on Gulf Beach Highway appears to be nearing completion. The store is in a mostly single family home area and has been contentious for many months, leading to various administrative and legal actions. At its March 5, 2020 meeting, however, Escambia County Board of County Commissioners voted to settle with developer Teramore Development LLC and allow construction to take place in exchange for “1.6 acres of green space, elevated design standards and a promise to the county not to pursue the payment of attorney’s fees.” For more on the issue, see the January 23, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Judge vacates contempt ruling for Escambia County in Dollar General case” at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/01/23/judge-ruling-vacatedescambia-county-contempt-dollar-general-case/4552175002/  and the March 6, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Controversial Dollar General Plan moving forward on Gulf Beach Highway after Settlement” at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/03/06/escambia-county-accepts-settlement-proposed-gulf-beach-highway-dollar-general/4964724002/, both by Madison Arnold.

Blue Angels Legacy Hornet Final Flyover

On a brilliant November 4, 2020 afternoon along the Perdido Key shore and elsewhere in the region, the Navy’s Blue Angels did their final flyover in “legacy” F-18 Hornets. The team is shifting to the newer F-18 Super Hornets, a shift already made by the rest of the US Navy.

Photo by Connie Walker

Johnson Beach Road Roundabout to Designers

Escambia County has begun the design process for construction of a roundabout at the Perdido Key Drive/Johnson Beach Road intersection. This will take about nine months followed by construction expected after the 2021 summer vacation season. Escambia County District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill noted: “So the traffic circle has the added benefit of slowing down traffic and sort of bookmarking the commercial core of Perdido Key so that people slow down, take it a little safer through there. Nobody wants to have their vacation end with a trip to the hospital.” For more on the issue, see the November 4, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Roundabout selected as Perdido Key intersection solution, now under design process” by Madison Arnold at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/11/04/roundabout-selected-perdido-key-intersection-solution-under-design-process/6163188002/.

High Lumber Costs and Probably Electric Power too!

Area residents recovering from Hurricane Sally are facing high lumber costs for repairs. According to a Pensacola News Journal article, prices are currently about $607 per thousand board feet – up from $260 in April 2020. Hurricane Michael in 2018 destroyed some of the area’s lumber while COVID 19 sent many millworkers home. For more on building material costs, see the September 27, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Hurricane Sally victims face near record prices for building materials in COVID fallout” by Madison Arnold at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/09/27/pensacola-high-demand-high-prices-building-materials-after-hurricane-sally-and-covid/3550155001/

Gulf Power costs for restoring power after Hurricane Sally is estimated at $200 million, which will likely be recouped from consumers. For more on electric power costs, see the October 21, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Hurricane Sally estimated to have cost Gulf Power $200 million to restore electricity” by Jim Saunders at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/10/21/hurricane-sally-estimated-have-cost-gulf-power-200-million-restore-electricity/3717578001/.

World Oceans Day 2020

 

World Oceans Day is celebrated on June 8 every year. As coordinated worldwide by The Ocean Project, “World Oceans Day is a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future.” A healthy ocean is critical to our survival, providing most of the oxygen we breath, helping to feed us, regulating our climate, cleaning the water we drink, providing a “pharmacopoeia of medicines,” and limitless inspiration! (Drawn from sevenseasmedia.org) This year’s World Oceans Day coincides with the United Nations Ocean Conference and Sustainable Development Goal SDG #14 – Life Under Water being held in Lisbon from June 2-6, 2020. The conference examined aspirations such as reducing marine pollution and ocean acidification and promoting sustainable fishing. (For more on the conference, go to seasave.org). World Oceans Day 2020 correspondingly has the goal of calling “on world leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030. This critical need is called 30×30. By safeguarding at least 30% of our ocean through a network of highly protected areas we can help ensure a healthy home for all!” (From The Ocean Project website at worldoceansday.org).

Perdido Key World Oceans Day Event – The Perdido Key Association (PKA), Friends of Pensacola State Parks and Pensacola area State Parks have sponsored World Oceans Day events at Perdido Key State Park since 2017, but for 2020 held it online because of the COVID-19 pandemic – as was done at other World Oceans Day celebrations worldwide. Ocean related topics were posted on organization websites from June 2, 2020 through June 8, 2020 to help spread the word about our wonderful but threatened oceans.

PKA Annual Membership Meeting

The Perdido Key Association held its Annual Membership Meeting on February 29, 2020 at the Eden Condominium. Guest speaker Dr. Alissa Deming, the Staff Veterinarian with the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network based on Dauphin Island, provided a very informed and interesting presentation on the health of the Gulf Coast bottlenose dolphin population. She pointed out that the current dolphin Unusual Mortality Event could be related to increased fresh water in local areas from the past year’s weather events. She also noted that the health of dolphins, as the region’s top oceanic predator, can be a good indicator of the overall health of the ecosystem they inhabit. PKA president Charles Krupnick followed with updates of a number of Perdido Key issues, such as progress on the Perdido Key Multi-Use Path and Perdido Key Master Plan. He also covered PKA initiatives and particularly the soon-to-be distributed 2020 Perdido Key Property Owner Survey – noting the cost challenges of the project. Approximately 40 people attended the meeting and seemed to appreciate the information provided.

NOTES ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Tons of Microplastics in Atlantic Ocean

A new study points to much larger quantities of microplastics in the Atlantic Ocean than previous estimates. Microplastics are any plastic particles less than 5mm and may come from specific use in clothing, cosmetics or industry or from the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as packaging material. The UK National Oceanographic Centre study estimates 12-21 million tons of microplastics in the Atlantic Ocean, “enough to fully load almost 1,000 container ships;” some measurements were as high as “7,000 particles per cubic meter of seawater.” As an interesting aside, according to Susannah Bleakley who helps coordinate UK beach cleanups: “We now find more disposable masks than plastic bags.” For more on the issue, see the August 18, 2020 BBC.com article “Microplastic in Atlantic Ocean ‘could weigh 21 million tones’” by Victoria Gill at https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-53786555.

More Manatees but a Tough Year for Sea Turtles

Despite the advancing cooler seasons, manatees continue to be sighted in the area with a total of 64 sightings in 2020. For more on the manatee see the October 30, 2020 “Sea Grant Notes” at http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/escambiaco/2020/10/30/sea-grant-notes-oct-30-2020/ and the November 7, 2020 Ocean Conservancy Ocean Current blog entry “9 Reasons You Can’t Help but Love Manatee” by Katie Hogge at https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2017/11/07/9-reasons-cant-help-love-manatees/.

But Escambia County sea turtles had a “dismal season” where, according to Escambia County’s marine resources manager Robert Turpin, only 1 of 28 sea turtle nests in the County could be deemed a success. Santa Rosa County had better luck with five of eight nests hatch at Navarre Beach. In addition, four juvenile green sea turtles were recently released to the Gulf after being rehabilitated at the Gulfarium’s C.A.R.E. Center. For more on sea turtles, go to the October 1, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Sea turtles laid 28 nests in Escambia County. Only one full nest survived” by Colin Warren-Hicks at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/10/01/escambia-county-had-28-sea-turtle-nests-2020-one-nest-survived/3587454001/ and the October 28, 2020 Northwest Florida Daily News article “Sea turtles rehabilitated by Gulfarium’s C.A.R.E. Center released at Topsail Hill” by Devon Ravine at https://www.nwfdailynews.com/story/news/2020/10/28/gulfarium-releases-four-rehabilitated-sea-turtles-into-gulf-tuesday/3747124001/.

Good and Bad Plants

PKA Key Notes has frequently mentioned the threat of beach vitex to Perdido Key and surrounding regions. The invasive species was recently listed as a Florida “noxious weed” which, according to a 2016 Fact Sheet by the Weed Science Society of America, means it can be “injurious to public health, agriculture, recreation, wildlife or property.” For more on beach vitex see the October 30, 2020 “Sea Grant Notes” at http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/escambiaco/2020/10/30/sea-grant-notes-oct-30-2020/.

But some plants are good! A recent UF/IFAS article by Carrie Stevenson lauds the merits of muhly grass as an “extremely versatile plant in the wild and in a home landscape.” It is a local plant and grows in 2-3 foot clumps with “pinkish purple” blossoms. Muhly grass is both flood and drought resistant and can provide “nesting material and shelter for birds and small animals.” For more, go to the article “Weekly ‘What is it’: Muhly grass” at http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/escambiaco/2020/10/28/weekly-what-is-it-muhly-grass/.

Photo by Larry Allain US GeoSurvey

Record Lionfish

An 18.19” lionfish was speared by a Destin diver, the largest ever caught in the Gulf of Mexico. The Atlantic record is 18.78” caught in the Florida Keys. Elsewhere, small lionfish have again been identified near the Ft. Pickens jetty, indicating their likely penetration into area inland estuaries. For more on these issues, see the November 06, 2020 and November 13, 2020 Sea Grant Notes at

https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/escambiaco/2020/11/06/sea-grant-notes-nov-6-2020/ and https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/escambiaco/2020/11/13/sea-grant-notes-nov-13-2020/.

What in the World is a Hammerhead Flatworm?

Most of us hardly ever see an earthworm here on Perdido Key, but they are certainly around the Pensacola area and unfortunately have to contend with an invasive species from Southeast Asia, the “hammerhead flatworm.” The unwelcome arrival to Northwest Florida resembles a hammerhead shark with its wide and flattened head. If found, they should be destroyed – but do not chop them into pieces because, like other worms, the pieces can regenerate into more hammerhead flatworms! For more on the issue, see the UF/IFAS blog “Weekly What is it?”: Hammerhead Flatworm” by Carrie Stevenson at https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/escambiaco/2020/11/16/weekly-what-is-it-hammerhead-flatworm/ posted on November 16, 2020.

Photo By: Les Harrison UF/IFAS Extension

Sharks around Pensacola

How many shark attacks have there been in the vicinity of Pensacola Beach since Tristán de Luna y Arellano landed in the region in 1559? Seven! During the same period, all of Florida had a total of 851 reported attacks – not very many when you consider the much great losses from all sorts of other accidents. For more information on sharks in our area, see the November 13, 2020 UF/IFAS blog “Fish of the Florida Panhandle – Sharks” by Rick O’Connor at https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/escambiaco/2020/11/13/fish-of-the-florida-panhandle-sharks/.

Photo By: NOAA Photo

Threats to Seagrass but also Success

Seagrass is “grass” that has migrated from land to the sea over time; it is different from seaweed which is “algae.” A healthy bed of seagrass begins the long chain of life from small creatures clinging to the blades and on to swarms of small fish providing nutrition for more predatory fish and seabirds to make a classic seaside habitat. Measurements of seagrass health have been ongoing for the last few years in the Pensacola and Perdido Key areas as part of a University of West Florida study. To learn more about seagrass, see the December 2020 Smithsonian Magazine article “Prairies of the Sea” by Katherine Harmon Courage at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/seagrass-ocean-secret-weapon-climate-change-180976235/  and the October 13, 2020  University of Virginia UVA Today article “Some Good News: Seagrass Restored to Eastern Shore Bays is Flourishing” by Fariss Samarrai at https://news.virginia.edu/content/some-good-news-seagrass-restored-eastern-shore-bays-flourishing?utm_source=UVAResearchDigest&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=UVAResearchDigest_12-20

Florida Panthers “at Risk”

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials announced that at least 20 Florida panthers died in 2020, all but one because of interaction with people and mostly from vehicle collisions. This is a lower count than recent years but probably not good news since it suggests there are fewer panthers left. An estimated 120 to 230 adult panthers may remain in the wild with the species survival threatened largely by development. For more on this issues, see the December 28, 2020 Association Press article “Wildlife Officials: 20 Florida Panthers Killed This Year” at https://apnews.com/article/wildlife-florida-coronavirus-pandemic-environment-st-petersburg-e1eb45baf6ce9ff13b6e9f5f6a32dca5.

 

Photo By: FWS Photo by Larry W. Richardson