Tag Archives: Gulf oil spill

Anna Maria Island Unlikely to be Affected by Oil Spill

Many islanders are breathing a sigh of relief after a recent computer model used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted only a very low probability of oil or tar balls from the Deepwater Horizon reaching Anna Maria Island.

NOAA’s computer model map identifies the probability of problems in various sections of the Gulf and Atlantic Coast. Not surprisingly, the eastern Louisiana coast, the entire Alabama coast and the western half of the Florida Panhandle coast are given the highest probability, from 81 to 100 per cent.

What is surprising, however, are the regions with the second-highest probability of being contaminated by oil and tar. Areas in this group have a 61 to 80 percent chance of this, and they include the south central Louisiana coast and a very small zone in the central coastal part of the Florida Panhandle. Then comes the big surprise for this 61 to 80 percent prediction area: another large zone that runs from the Florida Keys up around the entire southeast coast of the state.Anna Maria Island beach break surf

Anna Maria Island sits right on the border between two probability zones. The “below 1 percent” zone runs south from here. The “1 to 20 percent” zone runs north, beyond Tampa, almost to the Panhandle. What welcomed news this is.

These predictions were based on the assumption that the oil will continue to gush through late July at a rate of 33,000 barrels a day. Since it is based on historic wind and ocean current patterns, it’s not possible to anticipate what variation may occur with a major hurricane in the Gulf. Continue reading “Anna Maria Island Unlikely to be Affected by Oil Spill” »

What Not to Collect on Anna Maria Island: Live Sand Dollars

Illegally collected live Sand Dollars discarded on beach

Illegally collected live Sand Dollars discarded on beach

Sand dollars are not even beautiful when they are alive. Their whiteness comes only after the outer layer of skin and small spines has disappeared. It is the endoskeleton that is beautiful. I’m sure trying to clean a live sand dollar is not worth the smelly effort. It makes no sense to kill these creatures.

This member of the sea urchin family has the five sections of a sea urchin, but a flattened form. The very small spines allow it to move along the sandy bottom of the sea, and to burrow in. They also move food into the mouth. They eat mostly crustacean larvae, algae, diatoms and detritus.

A few years ago, scientists discovered something remarkable about sand dollars. They reproduce sexually, through external fertilization. However, their larvae have the ability to clone themselves and are likely to do this when threatened by a predator. The outcome is twice the number of larvae, with each one half the size. In some ways this is advantageous from a survival point of view.

Aside from general ethical reasons not to kill living creatures unnecessarily, there are laws in Manatee County, backed by the state of Florida, in relation to taking live shells. First of all, one must have a recreational salt water fishing license. And then only two of any particular species may be taken alive. There are some exceptions, such as oysters, several kinds of clams and coquinas, which may be taken in larger numbers.

Continue reading “What Not to Collect on Anna Maria Island: Live Sand Dollars” »