Taking Stock: Why Our Volunteers Count Fish!

The CIB’s Inshore Fish Seining Program is just preparing to wrap up for the season. An almost entirely volunteer-based effort, this project gathers data on the fish species found in the shallow shore-zone areas of the Inland Bays. Every year from April to October, these volunteers hop into the waist-deep bay waters and drag a seine net along the bottom, hoping to catch a sample of the fishes found there.


Of course it’s fun! But why else do they do it?

Pulling the seine net at Sassafrass Landing - Photo courtesy of Dennis Bartow
Pulling the seine net at Sassafrass Landing – Photo courtesy of Dennis Bartow


To get a more well-rounded picture of which species of fish can be found in the bays – and the sizes of their populations. The Division of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) does collect fisheries data through large open water trawl surveys, but they are not able to survey the important shallow shore-zone waters in the same manner. Many species are found there at some point during their life cycle, so missing out on this data is not an option.


This is where our Citizen Scientists come in – people like YOU! The data gathered from the CIB’s seining program fills in the blanks for many different fish species.

1. A seine net catches hundreds of Mummichogs and Crabs, 2. A fish is measured for data, 3. A female mummichog with eggs is caught


So far, the diversity of life we’ve seen has been astounding! A total of 69 different fish species have been captured since 2011, including species more typically found in Florida coastal waters such as Pompano, Permit, and Gray Snapper. (Also see Blog Post: 3 Unexpected Fish Species Found in the Inland Bays)


Our more common inhabitants are Atlantic silversides, Mummichog, and Striped killifish. These species are extremely important to the health of the Inland Bays ecosystem because they form the basis of the local food chain. And while many species we find use the Inland Bays to spawn, later migrating out of the estuary into the deeper ocean in fall and winter, these species might spend their entire lives in our estuary.


Because of this fact, changes in the populations of these species are particularly important indicators of changes occurring in the watershed as a whole. Tracking these species over time is, therefore, both a great way to determine their current stock, as well as a way to track changes in the overall health of the bays.


While the survey may be ending for the season, the Center is always looking for new and enthusiastic volunteers to help out.

If you are interested, please contact Andrew McGowan, environment@inlandbays.org, for more information on the 2017 survey, which will begin next spring – it’s much closer than you think!

Posted Under: Staff Blog