Marion County Phoenix Rising
YouthBuild VII graduation set;

Recruiting has started for next project,
which is slated to begin in July

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published May 21, 2018 at 10:08 p.m.
     OCALA –
Phoenix Rising YouthBuild students will trade hardhats for mortar boards and hammers for diplomas next month as they celebrate completion of Marion County’s seventh YouthBuild project.

 


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     Graduation takes place June 7 at 11 a.m. at Howard Academy Community Center, 306 NW 7th Ave., in Ocala.
Recruiting is also under way for the next project slated to begin in mid-July.  
     Phoenix Rising YouthBuild, which got its start in Ocala in 2011, is an alternative education program that seeks to revitalize economically-challenged areas of Ocala, Silver Springs Shores, Inverness and Crystal River while making a positive difference in the lives of young adults, age 18-24.
     Through the program, students receive hands-on and classroom training designed to develop workforce skills that lead to employment or a post-secondary education program. A key component of the program involves construction of Habitat for Humanity homes for deserving families in Marion and Citrus counties. Additionally, participants may earn their high school diploma as well as industry-recognized certifications while receiving weekly participation payments.
      “We are so excited that all 13 members of this YouthBuild cohort will graduate from the program and all are now high school graduates,” said Kimberly Grey, program manager. Additionally, all have passed their forklift/warehouse OSHA certification and have earned their Florida Safe Staff Food Handling certificate.
     Grey said that all 13 also are on track to receive their Home Builders Institute PACT Carpentry certification following graduation. Additionally, 12 members of the class have also earned their National Retail Federation Customer Service and Sales credential.
     Major funding for the Marion County YouthBuilds comes from an $806,000 grant from the US Department of Labor obtained by CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion. The grant covers four Phoenix Rising YouthBuild projects for 48 students.
     CareerSource CLM and its youth services provider, Eckerd Connects Workforce Development, recruit program participants, assign career coaches to help oversee the program and provide classroom employability training.
     In addition to CareerSource CLM, Eckerd Connects Workforce Development and Habitat for Humanity of Marion County, primary partners include Marion County Board of County Commissioners, City of Ocala, College of Central Florida (Hampton Center), Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Neighborhood Housing and Development Corporation, Florida State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) and Equal Housing Opportunity, and Silver River Mentoring & Instruction (SRMI).
     The following graduates will be recognized: Matthew Brown; Kurt Bunnell, Lateria Cohen, Leon Corrica, Gavon Eaves, Austin Edwards, Scott Gray, De’Vante Johnson, Vencent Mathews, Vanessa Mingo, Brandon Shippee, Zachariah Slaughter and Denver Sutter.
     Brian Conard, Eckerd’s area youth services program manager, said “words cannot express how proud we are of these young people.”
     Typically, each cohort consists of 12 students, but Conard said when it came down to making the final selection for the class, there were 13 outstanding candidates.
      “You could call this class ‘Lucky 13,’ because we were sure lucky to find such dedicated, hardworking young adults,” Conard said. The Juniper Road home they helped build is the first Phoenix Rising YouthBuild in Marion County in three years, and the first outside West Marion.
     The next YouthBuild will be constructed on Northwest 14th Avenue near Howard Middle School, less than a mile from CF’s Hampton Center where classroom instruction takes place.
To be eligible for the program, Conard said participants must be United States citizens age 18 to 24, in need of a high school diploma or GED and willing to work.
     Orientation for the next Phoenix Rising YouthBuild is scheduled for June 28 from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m. at the CareerSource CLM career center, 2703 N.E. 14th St., in Ocala. Class selection will be made July 10 with the project tentatively set to begin on July 16.
     Phoenix Rising YouthBuild has become a national model of what communities can build when public/private partners work together. It has earned recognition from the Florida League of Cities and the National League of Cities, Harvard's School of Business and Habitat for Humanity International's highest honor, the Clarence E. Jordan Award for creativity and innovation in building homes and communities.
     For more information about the program, call 352-291-9550, ext. 2293 or 800-434-JOBS, ext. 2293.


Region’s jobless rate
continues to drop

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Released May 18, 2018
Published May 19, 2018 at 8:18 a.m.
     OCALA --
The unemployment rate in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region was 4.2 percent in April, down 0.4 percentage point over the month and 0.6 percent lower than the same time last year.
     Over the year, the region’s labor force has grown by 894 to 200,287, employment has increased by 2,223 to 191,952 and the number of unemployed has decreased by 1,329 to 8,335.
     According to today’s release of the April employment summary by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, preliminary unemployment rates were 4.7 percent for Citrus County, down 0.5 percentage points over the month; 3.5 percent for Levy County, a drop of 0.4 percent; and 4.1 percent for Marion County, also down 0.4 percent over the month. Florida’s not seasonally adjusted jobless rate – a measure that matches the way local rates are calculated – was 3.4 percent, a decrease of 0.4 percent.
     Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource CLM, said the April report “shows continued growth in the key factors of labor force, employment and the resulting drop in unemployment. With an expanding labor force and expanding employment we are finally seeing a positive turn out of the recession.”
     Skinner said that one result of that upturn is that area businesses are finding fewer applicants in a tighter labor market
     “As with any single report, what we look for is a trending factor over several months,” he said. “The ability of the market to absorb our May/June graduates will give us a better ability to judge our long-term prospects.”
     Nonfarm employment in the Ocala/Marion County metropolitan statistical area was 104,300, an increase of 600 jobs over the month and 1,800 more than April 2017, for a growth rate of 1.8 percent over the year.
     For the second month in a row, the Ocala MSA posted the fastest annual job growth rate compared to all metro areas in the state in education and health services at 7.1 percent.
     In April, there were 19,700 jobs in education and health services, an increase of 300 jobs over the month and 1,300 more than a year ago.
     Also, for the fourth consecutive month, the Ocala metro area had the second fastest annual job growth rate among Florida metros at 8.9 percent. The 8,600 employed in manufacturing represents 700 more jobs than in April 2017.
     Both industries sectors, along with government which added 200 jobs (+1.3 percent), grew faster in the metro area than statewide over the year.
     Nonfarm payroll employment in the Homosassa Springs MSA was 33,700, the same as it was in April 2017.
     The Homosassa Springs MSA also had the second fastest annual job growth rate compared to all Florida metro areas in government at 2.2 percent.
     Here’s how the employment numbers break down for each county:
     ● Citrus County’s labor force contracted by 333 to 48,155, employment decreased by 63 to 45,888 while the number of jobless fell by 270 to 2,267. That’s an increase of 218 employed and 355 fewer unemployed compared to April 2017 when the unemployment rate was 5.4 percent.
     ● Levy County’s labor force grew by 77 over the month to 17,152, the number of those with jobs increased by 149 to 16,553 and the number of unemployed dropped by 72 to 599. That’s an increase of 127 employed and decrease of 105 unemployed over the year when the jobless rate was 4.1 percent.
     ● Marion County’s labor force remained virtually unchanged, shrinking by three to 134,980, the number of those with jobs increased by 538 to 129,511, and the number of unemployed fell by 541 to 5469. That’s an increase of 1,878 employed and decrease of 869 unemployed compared to April 2017 when the jobless rate was 4.7percent.
     Over the month, unemployment rates dropped in all 67 counties.
     Citrus County’s unemployment tied with Hendry County for the second highest unemployment rate among the state’s counties, Marion County tied with St. Lucie and Hamilton counties for the 10th highest and Levy County dropped to 27th, tied with Columbia, Jefferson, Volusia and Washington counties.
     Among the metro areas, Homosassa Springs, which includes all of Citrus County, continued to hold the second highest unemployment rate behind The Villages and Ocala/Marion County remained fifth highest.
     In addition to education and health services, manufacturing and government, Ocala MSA industries that gained jobs over the year were professional and business services (+100 new jobs) and leisure and hospitality (+100 jobs).
     Those losing jobs over the year were trade, transportation and utilities (-300 jobs); mining, logging and construction (-100 jobs) and financial activities and “other” services which each lost 100 jobs over the year.
     The information industry was unchanged.
     The region’s employment summary for May is scheduled to be released on Friday, June 15.


CF to offer OSHA 30-hour
general industry course

Published May 15, 2018 at 3:28 p.m.
     OCALA --
The College of Central Florida is scheduled to offer a noncredit Occupational Safety and Health Administration 30-hour general industry training course May 21-24 at its Ocala Campus, 3001 S.W. College Road.
     The course provides information for foremen, supervisors, line leaders, executives and other supervisory professionals. Participants are taught how to handle job related safety and health hazards. Special emphasis is placed on hazard identification and prevention including slips, trips and falls associated with walking and working surfaces and effective egress and fire protection programs.
     The course will meet Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Course fee is $399.
      For more information or to register for the course, call 352-873-5855, or CorporateCollege@cf.edu.


April showers bring
May flowers and
celebration for SRWMD


Some of the flowers that are able to be seen across the 15-county SRWMD. The upper photo is of a Spider Lilly. The lower photo is of a Wild Azalea.


~
Story and Photos
By SRWMD Staff Members
Published May 9, 2018 at 8:18 p.m.
     LIVE OAK --
The old adage “April showers bring May flowers” rings true across the Suwannee River Water Management District (District) with fields, roadways and yards filled with wildflowers. The abundance of blooms opened just in time for National Wildflower Week which kicked off May 7.
     “District lands are prime habitats for native wildflowers. We actively manage our lands through prescribed burning, invasive plant control, floodplain protection and restoring natural communities - all of which are vital to the health of our ecosystems, wildflowers included” said      Hugh Thomas, executive director for the District.
     Wildflowers play an important role in bee pollination which is necessary for the growth of most trees and plants, including our food supply. They also provide a food supply for wildlife such as deer, rabbits, bees and even the endangered gopher tortoise.
     Protection of wildflower spaces is important as land use pressures continue to increase across Florida. To support the effort, the District manages over 160,000 acres of public lands which are spectacles for wildflower and wildlife viewing, as well as other recreational activities. In fact, wildflowers play such an integral role in the overall ecosystem that many agencies are working to preserve areas where they grow naturally through public land ownership and roadway wildflower management programs.
     “We all play a role in protecting our habitats to ensure the longevity of our resources, flora and fauna,” said Thomas. “And who doesn’t like a bunch of handpicked wildflowers? They put a smile on almost any face and save the need to spend Saturdays on a lawn mower.”
     The mission of the Suwannee River Water Management District is to protect and manage water resources using science-based solutions to support natural systems and the needs of the public. The District holds true to the belief of water for nature, water for people. Headquartered in Live Oak, Florida, the District serves 15 surrounding North Central Florida counties.
     For more information about the District, visit www.mysuwanneeriver.com/.


Dunn’s Veterans Opioid Bill
passes VA committee

By Shelby Hodgkins of Rep. Dunn's Office
Published May 8, 2018 at 3:28 p.m.
     WASHINGTON, D.C. –
Today (Tuesday, May 8), the United States House of Representatives Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously passed Congressman Neal Dunn’s (FL-02) legislation, the Veterans Opioid Abuse Prevention Act.
     This important legislation directs Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare providers to share prescribing data across a national network of interstate prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). PDMPs improve a doctor’s ability to identify at-risk patients who may have a pattern of prescription opioid abuse.
     Just like private sector physicians, VA doctors consult state-based PDMPs before prescribing potentially dangerous pain medications to veterans. Unfortunately, VA providers currently do not have the authority to share prescribing data across state lines or nationwide. This prescribing information can identify someone from another state who is at high risk for abuse, overdose, and death.
     “Veterans across our country are suffering from addiction and opioid abuse. As a doctor and a veteran, I have met heroes who need help, but aren’t finding it at the VA. We can change that,” said Dr. Dunn. “The VA is the largest healthcare provider in the country and is in a unique position to lead the initiative to prevent opioid abuse, particularly among our veterans. By increasing transparency in opioid prescribing, we can identify abuse patterns and ensure our veterans are getting the best possible care.”
     “As we work to tackle the opioid epidemic, we must take every step to promote safe prescribing practices that protect America’s heroes from the dangers of opioid abuse. I’m proud the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs advanced Dr. Dunn’s legislation to allow for the greater sharing of information between VA and state-based prescription drug monitoring programs, and I’m grateful for his continued work on this issue,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman, Dr. Phil Roe (TN-01).
     The President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued a preliminary report in July of 2017 that cited the lack of interoperability between states as one significant shortcoming of state PDMPs. Dr. Dunn’s legislation aligns with the White House’s recommendation that the VA lead efforts to have all state and federal PDMPs share information.
     “Our veterans are true American heroes, let’s give them a fighting chance and ensure no one slips through the cracks and becomes a victim of the opioid crisis,” Dunn said.
     Dr. Dunn has been working in Congress to fight the opioid crisis and recently held his first of several Opioid Listening Sessions at the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. He heard from law enforcement, local leaders, organizations from the health care community, faith-based organizations, and recovering opioid users - all fighting to end this epidemic and save lives.
     The legislation is supported by Paralyzed Veterans of America, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Dr. Dunn’s legislation has 37 cosponsors, including House  Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (OR-02), and the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force Co-Chair Anne McLane Kuster (NH-02).


Schedule of 10 free workshops
now offered for job searchers

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published May 6, 2018 at 10:18 a.m.
     OCALA --
It’s said that April Showers bring May flowers, but for those interested in finding a job, May offers a bouquet of new workshops just blooming with ways to help improve employability skills and refine job-search efforts.
     CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion has updated and added to its rotating schedule of fee-free employability workshops, now offering 10 different workshops including a selection available in all three counties.
     “I guess this is something you could say is ‘back by popular demand,’” said Jerry Flanders, workshop coordinator. “Yes, the economy continues to improve, but that often means there is more competition for jobs. We understand the importance of expanding ways we can equip job candidates with the tools and confidence needed to navigate today’s labor market.”
     Flanders said the workshops are designed to provide candidates with strategies that are effective now as well as prepare them for the future. 
      “The beauty of it is, job candidates may choose the workshops that best meet their needs and schedule,” he said, adding that candidates are welcome to attend any of the workshops regardless of where they live in the region.
     Workshops are currently offered at the following career centers:

LEVY COUNTY (2175 NE 14th St., Chiefland)
     ● Navigate Today’s Workplace – Discover how essential changes to the workplace and HR processes shape marketing strategies of job candidates.
     ● Your Job Specific Resume – Learn to showcase skills and qualifications on a job-specific basis and come away with resources and strategies that get you noticed.
     To view full workshop descriptions and access online registration links for all three counties, visit careersourceclm.com/pages/workshops. Workshops can also be found on the Events Calendar at careersourceclm.com/events.
     For more information, call 352-732-1700, ext. 2209 or 800-434-JOBS, ext. 2209.
MARION COUNTY (2703 NE 14th St., Ocala)
     ● Beyond Barriers – Do you see yourself as a good fit for job openings but you have background issues, credit difficulties, workplace limitations or have been out of the workforce for an extended time? While there is no magic bullet for overcoming work-related issues, this workshop offers strategies for capturing the attention of HR recruiters, including awareness of the Federal Bonding program.
     ● Computer Essentials – Computer proficiency is now required in today’s workplace. The workshop guides participants through basic computer skills and a variety of online resources that support continued learning. In addition, you’ll learn about the new Online Learning Resources and Assessment Center.
     ● Employ Florida and More – This workshop provides an overview of Employ Florida, the state’s go-to online job board for businesses and candidates. Learn how to register and leverage the site’s job-search and other tools to deliver results.
     ● Interview Strategies – Job interviews require preparation, especially in today’s tight labor market. The workshop equips you with strategies and tools to help you stand out from the competition. You’ll put what you’ve learned to the test with real-world interviews with our team of coaches and recruiters who will market you to potential employers. Bring your best resume and come dressed to impress.
     ● Navigate Today’s Workplace – Discover how essential changes to the workplace and HR processes shape marketing strategies of job candidates.
     ● Navigate Today’s Workplace for Veterans – For veterans only, the workshop adds strategies and resources to leverage a “Veterans Eligible Status” and address challenges often faced by former members of the military.
     ● Online Resources for Veterans – This workshop focuses on in-person and online resources available to veterans.
     ● Tips for Federal Jobs – Learn effective strategies for applying for state and federal positions by navigating USA Jobs and understanding important differences in getting noticed for public sector versus private employment opportunities.
     ● Your Digital Footprint – More often than not, hiring managers check your social media to see if you’d make a good corporate fit. Find out how to manage your social media presence, how businesses use social platforms, and discover how you can leverage CareerSource CLM’s own social networks to your advantage.
     ● Your Job Specific Resume – Learn to showcase skills and qualifications on a job-specific basis and come away with resources and strategies that get you noticed.
CITRUS COUNTY (683 S. Adolph Point, Lecanto)
     ● Employ Florida and More – This workshop provides an overview of Employ Florida, the state’s go-to online job board for businesses and candidates. Learn how to register and leverage the site’s job-search and other tools to deliver results.
     ● Navigate Today’s Workplace – Discover how essential changes to the workplace and HR processes shape marketing strategies of job candidates.
     ● Your Job Specific Resume – Learn to showcase skills and qualifications on a job-specific basis and come away with resources and strategies that get you noticed.

 


Levy County
tire amnesty succeeds


Some of the tires are seen here on Saturday. There is a semi-trailer in the background that by noonish was packed full of tires. Levy County Spotter-Operator Terry Dukes directed vehicles into the area to deliver their tires. He said there was a non-stop flow of vehicles from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. The dump accepted tires up until 5 p.m. on Saturday

Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © April 23, 2018 at 1:08 a.m.
     LEVY COUNTY –
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday (April 21), vehicles and trailers loaded with discarded tires rolled into and out of the tire disposal area of the Levy County Solid Waste Transfer Station between Bronson and Williston.



Don Lindsey brings tires to the site on Saturday. He was one of the many people delivering tires for the free drop-off.



In this video, the Levy County machine used to move and pack tires into the back of a semi is seen in action.


     The effort to reduce mosquito breeding grounds, as well as and other biological and environmental hazards from tires improperly disposed of or stored in Levy County showed phenomenal success.
     Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks is the leader who initiated the venture when on April 3 he suggested to the County Commission that they provide the people of Levy County with an amnesty from fees for discarded tires. Chairman Meeks on that day found unanimous agreement by the County Commission members present at the outset of the meeting to award Levy County residents a fee-free day to drop off old car tires.
     County Commissioner Lilly Rooks made the motion, seconded by County Commissioner Matt Brooks to approve Tire Amnesty Day. Chairman Meeks, Rooks, Brooks and Commissioner Rock Meeks voted in favor of it. County Commissioner Mike Joyner did not arrive until after that vote that morning, although he learned about the approval when he arrived.
     Levy County residents very heartily utilized the Tire Amnesty Day (Saturday, April 21) from 8 a.m., to 5 p.m. at the Levy County Solid Waste Transfer Site, 12051 N.E. 69th Lane (between Bronson and Williston) to bring in car tires.
     Of the $22 million collected by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection last year for old tire disposal fees, $8 million is earmarked for the Small Counties’ Solid Waste Grant in the state, Chairman Meeks said, and Levy County is among the counties eligible for that funding.
     During a conference call Meeks was involved with, he asked the DEP and the Florida Department of Health what could be done to help Levy County clean up some of the tires that people have disposed of improperly – causing a mosquito-breeding ground.
    The DEP said it would cover the cost of tire disposal in Levy County on Tire Amnesty Day (April 21), Meeks said.
     Normally in Levy County, it costs $2 per car tire to drop tires at the Solid Waste Transfer Station. Therefore, Levy County residents can save $2-per-tire on that Saturday.
     Beyond saving money, Levy County residents who use this amnesty will be helping reduce the potential for mosquito-breeding places because rainwater in discarded tires is a prime location for breeding those blood-sucking, disease-spreading insects.


Labor force & employment up,
joblessness down

Ocala and Homosassa Springs metros
post top job growth in key industries

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published April 20, 2018 at 2:38 p.m.
     OCALA –
The unemployment rate in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region was 4.6 percent in March, down 0.1 percentage point over the month and 0.6 percent lower than the same time last year. Out of an expanded labor force of 200,627, there were 9,211 unemployed, a decrease of 203 over the month and 1,043 fewer than March 2017.
     According to today’s (Friday, April 20) release of the March employment summary by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, preliminary unemployment rates were 5.2 percent for Citrus County, down 0.3 percentage points over the month; 3.9 percent for Levy County, which is unchanged; and 4.4 percent for Marion County, down 0.2 percent. Florida’s not seasonally adjusted jobless rate – a measure that matches the way local rates are calculated – was 3.8 percent, the same as in February.
All three counties experienced labor force expansion, increases in the numbers of employed and drops in joblessness.
     Kathleen Woodring, executive vice president of CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, said, “When you see that combination, it’s like an economic trifecta. All three indicators in all three counties are moving in the right direction, and that’s a big positive for our region.”
     Woodring said the report also highlights job growth in the Ocala/Marion County metropolitan statistical area where there were 103,700 nonfarm jobs in March, an increase of 700 jobs over the month and 1,700 more than March 2017.
     The Ocala MSA posted the fastest annual job growth rate compared to all metro areas in the state in education and health services at 5.4 percent. In March, there were 19,400 jobs in education and health services, an increase of 1,000 over the year.
     Also, for the third consecutive month, the Ocala metro area had the second fastest annual job growth rate among Florida metros at 8.9 percent. The 8,600 employed in manufacturing represents 700 more jobs than in March 2017.
     Both industries sectors grew faster in the metro area than statewide over the year.
     In March, nonfarm payroll employment in the Homosassa Springs MSA was 33,800, an increase of 700 jobs over the month and an increase of 400 jobs over the year, for a 1.2 percent annual job growth rate.
The Homosassa Springs MSA also had the fastest annual job growth rate compared to all Florida metro areas in government at 4.5 percent, an increase of 200 jobs over the year.
     Here is the employment breakdown for each county:
     ● Citrus County posted strong gains over the month with a labor force that grew by 651 to 48,494 along with an increase of 743 to 45,960 in the number of employed while the number of jobless dropped by 92 to 2,534. That’s an increase of 655 employed and 237 fewer unemployed compared to March 2017 when the unemployment rate was 5.8 percent.
     ● Levy County’s labor force expanded by 35 over the month to 17,077, the number of those with jobs increased by 91 to 16,406 and the number of unemployed dropped by two to 671. That’s an increase of 110 employed and decrease of 77 unemployed over the year when the jobless rate was 4.4 percent.
     ● Marion County’s labor force grew by 695 to 135,056, the number of those with jobs increased by 804 to 129,050, and the number of unemployed fell by 109 to 6,006. That’s an increase of 2,212 employed and decrease of 729 unemployed compared to March 2017 when the jobless rate was 5.0 percent.
     Over the month, unemployment rates dropped in 49 counties, rose in three and remained unchanged in 15.
     Citrus County’s unemployment dropped from highest to second highest unemployment rate among the state’s counties, Marion County also dropped a spot to hold the 12h highest and Levy County remained at 26th.
     Among the metro areas, Homosassa Springs, which includes all of Citrus County, dropped behind The Villages for the second highest rate, and Ocala/Marion County remained fifth highest.
     In addition to education and health services and manufacturing, Ocala MSA industries that gained jobs over the year were leisure and hospitality (+200 jobs); and trade, transportation and utilities (+100 jobs).
Financial activities, professional and business services and “other” services each lost 100 jobs over the year.
Mining, logging and construction; information; and government industries were unchanged.
     The region’s employment summary for April is scheduled to be released on Friday, May 18.


Florida Sea Grant helped
to save Keys lobster industry
nearly $4 million
after Hurricane Irma


Two men recover lobster fishing gear. They are some of the many individuals who worked to recover lost gear after Hurricane Irma hit.

Photo courtesy of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association

By Samantha Grenrock
Public Relations Specialist
UF/IFAS Communications
Published April 12, 2018 at 4:08 p.m.
     GAINESVILLE --
Hurricane Irma displaced more than 150,000 spiny lobster traps in the Florida Keys last year, sometimes miles away from their original locations.
     A novel eyes-in-the-sky solution has saved the industry nearly $4 million, according to the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association (FKCFA).
     This kind of response wouldn’t have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for the association’s strong working relationship with Florida Sea Grant, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, said Bill Kelly, executive director of FKCFA.
     “Our aerial reconnaissance, in cooperation with Florida Sea Grant and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, established a platform for rapid assessments, should and when the next hurricane comes our way,” Kelly said. “It also provides a strategic road map for gear cleanup and helps in establishing not only locations but also estimated costs and time-frames based on previous efforts.”
     To implement this new approach, the Association recruited two of its professional spotter pilots and their aircraft with costs covered by emergency funding provided by the National Sea Grant program to Florida Sea Grant. Sea Grant also equipped each plane with GPS-enabled cameras and additional personnel via the emergency funding.
     During three days of overflights, each aircraft covered approximately 2,100 miles and took a total of nearly 15,000 GPS enabled photographs. This information was then uploaded to geographic information system computers, plotted on nautical charts of the Keys and distributed to stakeholders, FWC, law enforcement and local government officials.
     “Successfully piloted in Florida, aerial reconnaissance could be the new response protocol for other coastal communities affected by severe weather,” Kelly said.
     Florida Keys fishermen, who fuel the second largest economic sector in the Keys, were faced with the time-consuming task of searching for lost gear. Irma hit in September, just a month into the lobster season, which goes from August to March. Spending that period recovering gear, rather than taking in catch, would have been money lost for fishermen and the Florida Keys, Kelly said. “We needed a rapid response,” he said.
Shelly Krueger, Sea Grant agent for Monroe County, facilitated the reconnaissance effort and data analysis.
     “Most commercial fisherman in the Keys earn the majority of their income from the lobster catch. They are a vital part of the Florida Keys — for them to get out fishing soon after the storm helped them financially and reduced the stress of recovery,” she said.
     Krueger continues to work with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to coordinate clean-up efforts. Together they have converted the original GPS maps into Google Earth. This Google Earth version is overlaid with a grid, allowing crews to clean-up of remaining debris systematically. “Hopefully a year from now, we can show that all the grids have been cleared,” Krueger said.
     Krueger’s work is just one example of UF/IFAS Extension and the public coming together in the interest of productive fisheries, said Karl Havens, director of Florida Sea Grant.
     “Florida Sea Grant is very strategic,” Havens said. “We use our federal funds and matching state and local funds to tackle issues identified as top priorities by a wide range of coastal constituents. We also can be nimble and bring unique expertise to bear when a crisis occurs. We did this after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and we were able to quickly mobilize to find a solution to help recover lost lobster traps after Hurricane Irma.”
     The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.

--UPDATED--
WEDNESDAY  MAY 23  6:58 a.m.
Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties



 
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