All Topics

Confiscated Marine Life

September 20th, 2017

The Key West Aquarium, along with NOAA and The Florida Wildlife Commission, are working hard to protect our environment. Illegal collection and transport of marine  tropicals for the aquarium trade is widely spreading. Without proper permits and transportation documents, marine tropicals are seized by government officials. The seized property is placed in facilities like this one until trial, as part of evidence until the case is settled.

Green bird wrasse, percula clownfish, sailfin tang, yellow tang, blue damsel, bamboo shark, bicolor parrotfish, banded eel, blue chromis, coral beauty angel, brown tang, and orange anthias are all commonly confiscated marine life. You can see these fish at the Key West Aquarium and learn more about them.

bottlenose-dolphin

Key West’s waters are teeming with dolphins. Nothing compares to the trill of seeing these friendly, playful creatures frolic in the wild. Whether it’s on a dolphin watching excursion, a snorkel trip out to the reef or a sunset sail through the harbor, there’s always a chance of spotting a pod of dolphins surfing through the wake or jumping out of the water near the bow. You can also learn more about dolphins and their Key West habitat by visiting the Key West Aquarium. Read on for some fun facts about dolphins in Key West. Read the rest of this entry »

Whale Shark Awareness

August 24th, 2016

Though Whale Sharks are the largest fish on the planet, these “gentle giants” are filter-feeders and therefore are harmless to humans. Being a filter-feeder means these large creatures (which can reach over 40 ft.) feed on tiny ocean organisms- plankton. These fish have skeletons made entirely of cartilage, rather than bone like the majority of sea animals. The pattern of spots around the gill area on a Whale Shark are unique to each individual allowing researchers to identify individual sharks. The mouth of the whale shark can reach a width of approximately 3 feet.

Whale sharks can be found in waters of over 100 countries, but typically stay in tropical and warm temperate seas, both in oceanic and coastal waters.

Status: Vulnerable

Whale sharks live long lives and therefore mature late- doesn’t produce offspring until 30+ years of age.

Current threats to the whale shark include: habitat loss, coastal development, collision with boats, and disturbance by boats/divers engaged in irresponsible tourism activities.

Key West Waters

Key West’s waters are teeming with fascinating marine life. While the coral reef off the coast of Key West is home to a beautiful array of tropical fish, there are other underwater creatures lurking about. This is where Florida’s stone crabs and spiny lobsters come into play. These crustaceans hide within coral caves or dock pilings with their antennae or claws protruding for a hint at what’s beneath. They’re exciting to see in the wild, especially for fishermen since they’re amongst the water’s most prized catch.  Brush up on these fun facts about Florida stone crabs and spiny lobsters, then try to find them in the wild. Read the rest of this entry »

Queen Conch

June 1st, 2016

The Queen Conch produces a large spiral shell with “spines” on it. These spines are thought to be for protection, but to human touch they are dull and non-threathening. The conch’s shell has a wide lip that has a rich pink color. Inside the shell is where the head stays which has two pairs of tentacles– one provides eyes and the other provides the sense of touch and smell. Visible at the lip of the shell is the conch’s large foot.

Instead of gliding through the sand, the conch performs a “hopping” movement by thrusting it’s foot against the ocean floor which causes the shell to rise, and then throwing itself forward. The queen conch is found to be most active at night to feed on algae.

Once upon a time, the waters of Key West flourished with queen conchs. Unfortunately, due to over-fishing, it is now illegal to commercially and recreationally harvest this animal in the States.

Nowadays, the queen conch’s shell is prized by tourists, but was previously valued for its meat.

When you come to Key West, come on down to Mallory Square and visit the Key West Aquarium where you can interact with a live Queen Conch in our Touch Tank. You can also blow a Conch horn when you travel to the top of the Key West Shipwreck Museum, and while you’re in the square, make sure to check out the Conch Fritter Stand and try our islands favorite food!

348s

 

 

The blue tang is typically found on reefs in high current areas so that they can feed on zooplankton. Blue tangs are easy to spot due to their bright coloration. They are typically a vibrant blue with a yellow tail. They have two black lines. One lines the fish form the eye, along the back, and atop the tail. The other lines the fish from the gills to the back of the tail. Their pectoral fins can have some yellow coloration on them. Their body is oval shaped and flat. Read the rest of this entry »

A Deep Sea Mystery

May 18th, 2016

What makes the Black Sea Devil a deep sea mystery is there is less known information about it than the giant squid.

What we DO know is this:

A Female black sea devil can grow to be about the size of a baseball. The males are even smaller and are actually more of a parasite than a fish. In order to survive, the males must bite on to the female. Their tissues will fuse together, and the male provides sperm while the female sustains the male.

Black sea devils have a gaping mouth, needle-sharp teeth, a slightly startled expression,  and a lure atop their head that lights up. It’s unknown if there is a pattern for the illumination or if the light is continuously kept on. This lure is used to attract prey.

Linophryne+lucifer

 

For most of us, when we hear the word “squid” we either think of fishing bait or calamari. For Scientists, we can assume that they think of the Giant Squid– one of the largest mysteries of science.

architeuthis_verrill

To see a live giant squid is a privilege not many have had. Most of everything scientists know about the giant squid has come from carcasses hauled in from fisherman or being washed up onto shore.

They are the largest invertebrate on Earth. The largest ever found of the species measured 59 feet in length, and weighed a ton. The largest found (while fishing off the coast in Japan) while still alive was 24 feet in length.

Identical to other squid species, they have eight arms and two feeding tentacles which help them bring food to their beak-like mouths. Their eyes can grow to be the size of beach balls (about 10 inches in diameter). Having large eyes allows them to detect other objects in the deep depths of the ocean where other animals would see nothing. Their diet primarily consists of fish, shrimp, and other squids.

The giant squid maneuvers their massive body with fins and use their funnel as a propulsion system, which draws water into their mantle and then they force it out the back.

 

The importation and keeping of Burmese Pythons in Florida has led to some rather serious problems. People who no longer wish to care for their pythons, or whose pythons have grown too large to be kept in their houses, have been known to release their pets into the wild rather than have them re-homed or even humanely euthanized. This has been particularly problematic in South Florida, along with possible zoo, warehouse, and household escapees from Hurricane Andrew, where a large number of pythons have made their way to the Everglades. They have thrived there, begun to reproduce prolifically, and become an invasive species. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Decide beforehand which fish are to be kept and immediately release all others.

  • Fish with barbless hooks or crimp and remove the barb. There’s no significant difference or mortality between catching fish with barbed/barbless hooks. The advantages of barbless hooks are: reduces time needed to dehook the fish, and less physical damage to the fish from hook removal.

  • Avoid the use of landing nets made of hard polypropylene or nylon- they tend to remove the protective slime from the scales.

  • Cut the leader close to the hook when releasing large fish( jewfish, tarpon, sharks) or other fish that are gut hooked that you do not plan to keep. *Do not lift a gut-hooked fish out of the water by the leader; this can increase hook damage.

  • Wet your hands or gloves to handle the fish so that you remove as little slime as possible. To keep the fish calm, place it on its back or cover its eyes with a wet towel. Do not injure the eyes or gills. Control the fish at all times- the fish could fatally injure itself against the boat.

  • If the hook is difficult to remove by hand, use long-nosed pliers or a de-hooking tool. To avoid tearing additional tissue, back the hook through the original injury. If this fails, cut the leader and pull out the hook through the injury.

  • If your fish is in good shape, put it back into the water head first.

  • Revive the exhausted, but otherwise healthy fish by placing one hand under the tail and hold the bottom lip with the other. Move the fish into the shade, either alongside the boat, under the edge of a dock, or to the bottom- cooler water contains more oxygen and will help the fish will revive faster. If the fish is in fair to good shape, hold it headfirst into the current. If it is severely lethargic, depress the bottom lip to cause the jaw to gape and gently move the fish forward.  At the first sign of the fish attempting to swim away, let it go, but keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t tire and die.

Google