Archive for the 'Saltwater' Category

Sargassum: Not Pretty, but Useful

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018
Sargassum on Texas Beach, Image © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Sargassum on Texas Beach, Image © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

This is Passport to Texas

The arrival of brown colored algae, called sargassum, to Texas beaches is nearly as predictable as the return of the swallows to Capistrano, but not as welcome.

It shows up on the beach, late spring through early summer, and it can be a nuisance to your average partygoer.

Paul Hammerschmidt, formerly with Coastal Fisheries, says tons of sargassum wash up on the Texas coast from the North Atlantic, hindering beachgoer access to the water. Yet, sargassum is far from being a mere nuisance. It provides habitat for other living things.

There are many animals that only live in the sargassum weed in the Sargasso Sea. It also is a nursery area for a whole lot of game fish like Mahi Mahi, Marlin, Sailfish, that type of thing.

On shore, Hammerschmidt says beachcombers discover shells and sea beans in the slimy tangle, as well as live animals. Cities and counties that obtain permits may move the seaweed to help rebuild sand dunes. If you get a hankering to bring home some Sargassum, it does make a good garden fertilizer – with one caveat.

One thing you really do have to do is rinse the saltwater off of it. You don’t want that saltwater in your garden; that’s just not healthy for your garden.

The Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

So Much Sargassum

Monday, March 19th, 2018
Image of Kemp's Ridley resting on Sargassum © Joseph Scarola

Image of Kemp’s Ridley resting on Sargassum © Joseph Scarola

This is Passport to Texas

Every spring and summer, visitors to the coast encounter piles of brown, wet, slimy vegetation on Texas beaches.

It’s a brown algae called sargassum.

Paul Hammerschmidt, formerly with Coastal Fisheries, says sargassum may accumulate on tide lines for miles.

It belongs to a whole group of plants that belong to the sargassum group. Most of those plants are attached to hard substrate – rocks, shells – that kind of thing. These particular species don’t attach to anything; they’re floating. They have little tiny gas bladders that help the plant float. So, periodically that breaks away and ends up on the Texas beach.

Sargassum originates in the Sargasso Sea, in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean.

…in a big floating gyre; a gyre is a big eddy. And this particular sea has no shoreline at all – no land shoreline. It’s surrounded by four different ocean currents that keep that seaweed trapped in this one particular area.

Yet, tons of sargassum escape and end up on Texas shores.

Changes in the currents; winds and storms can occur in the area, and section of it actually break off and get into the main currents. Those main currents will bring them into the gulf and eventually onto the beaches.

Tomorrow: the value of sargassum.

The Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

2018 Crab Trap Removal

Monday, February 5th, 2018
Dead crab in abandoned trap, San Antonio Bay. Image  Art Morris, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Dead crab in abandoned trap, San Antonio Bay. Image
Art Morris, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

This is Passport to Texas

Commercial crab fishermen use baited wire traps to lure their prey. Sometimes traps end up missing due to storms, or they are simply discarded.

These traps continue “ghost fishing” for months or years—capturing fish and other marine creatures, including endangered species, thus taking an environmental and economic toll on gulf fisheries.

In February of 2002, Texas Parks and Wildlife conducted the first abandoned crab trap removal program. During a 10-day period in February volunteers like you, join Texas Parks and Wildlife staff and partners, in removing derelict traps.

More than 32,000 crab traps have been removed from the gulf since 2002, saving tens of thousands of marine organisms.

This year’s cleanup is February 16th through the 25th. The big cleanup “push” is Saturday, February 17 from 10 to noon. The cleanup is the only time citizens may remove these traps from gulf waters.

Texas Parks and Wildlife facilitates roughly 20 coastal sites, and provides disposal facilities, tarps, gloves, crab trap hooks and other items to help volunteers remove troublesome traps.

To volunteer for this year’s program visit the Abandoned Crab Trap Removal page on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Sport Fish restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Setting Your Sights on Unusual Shells

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018
Spirula shells. Photo credit: Fritz Geller-Grimm

Spirula shells. Photo credit: Fritz Geller-Grimm

This is passport to Texas

Before you can sell seashells by the seashore, you first have to find them.

I feel the best time to go shelling is in the wintertime.

Paul Hammerschmidt is a lifelong shell collector. He says winter storms churn up the Gulf bottom, sending shells onto the beach. Improve your chances of finding intact shells when you avoid crowded shoreline.

If you get a chance to go to some more isolated beaches, like down on Padres island, or something like that, where the population of humans is not quite so thick, you’ll have a much better chance of finding some really unusual shells.

Such as a sweet little shell called baby ears, or another special shell worth searching for called spirula.

And it’s a coiled, snail-like shell. But it doesn’t belong to a snail—it belongs to a little squid. And it’s inside the squid, and when the squid dies, that little thing has a lot of chambers in it with gas, and it floats and washes up on the beach. Those are very pretty, bright white, and they’re very fragile, so you have to be careful with them.

This winter, instead of heading to the slopes for skiing, go to the beach for shelling…you can still have hot cocoa when you’re done.

Saturdays through the end of February Ranger Lisa leads shell hunting, identification and collecting workshops at Galveston Island SP. Find details in the calendar section of the TPW website.

The Sport Fish restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Winter Shell Collecting in Texas

Monday, January 29th, 2018
Beachcombing on Galveston Island in Winter.

Beachcombing on Galveston Island in Winter.

This is passport to Texas

Nobody thinks twice about collecting shells from the beach. But I started to wonder if it’s really okay since beaches are public land.

It’s okay to collect shells. The ones that are broken and come apart, they create the sand that’s out there, but there is no law against it [collecting].

Paul Hammerschmidt, retired from coastal fisheries, is a lifelong shell collector. He says collect responsibly to avoid creating problems for the environment or marine animals.

I highly recommend that you only take shells that are from dead animals—not live animals.

How can you determine if something is still alive? In the case of the popular sand dollar, small spines cover the shells of living animals…so look for smooth, spineless shells. If, like me, you’ve never found a sand dollar on the beach—there’s good reason for it.

I think it’s because everybody wants to get a sand dollar. And, too, they’re another very fragile shell. And when the waves are strong, they’ll get broken up, and you’ll just see fragments of them. A lot of times, the best time to find a sand dollar, is after a storm—and then very early in the morning—before anybody else gets out on the beach.

More tips on when and where to go shelling tomorrow.

We record our series in Austin at the Block House. Joel Block Engineers our program.

That’s our show for today… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.