Derelict Shrimp Net Removed from Toppino Reef

March 2015

Diver inspects net on seafloor. People hold a large net. Nurse shark feeds on fish trapped in net. Pelicans on post near orange buoy. Orange triangle sits amidst marine debris on seafloor. Boards on seafloor. White and black spotted fish in net.
Dive supervisor Brett Stafford inspects a shrimp net found near Marker 32.
Sanctuary staff display the shrimp net retrieved from Marker 32.
A nurse shark feeds on a fish trapped in a derelict shrimp net near Toppino Light.
Pelicans perch where a light once topped Marker 32. The orange buoy is the temporary replacement.
The platform and reflective light from damaged Marker 32, known to locals as Toppino Light.
Otter boards from a shrimp boat near Toppino Light.
A rock hind was found trapped in a shrimp net near Toppino Light.

A derelict shrimp net that had been trapping fish near Toppino Light was removed last week by sanctuary staff.

Stock Island Approach Channel Marker Light 32, known to locals as Toppino Light, is missing the platform which held a reflective triangle and light to mark the reef. The damage appears to have happened when the outrigging of a shrimp boat collided with the marker.

A temporary light, placed at the location by the Coast Guard, marks which side of the reef is safe for boaters, so they can avoid the hazard posed by the reef and other marine debris at the site. There are plans for rebuilding the aid to navigation, but dates have not yet been confirmed, according to the Coast Guard.

When the sanctuary first investigated the scene in late January, they saw several juvenile yellowtail hovering around the net, and a rock hind trapped inside. As they watched, a nurse shark came to the scene and began to feed on the rock hind.

“The net posed a hazard to fish and had the potential to entangle other marine life, so we targeted it as a priority for removal,” said Sean Morton, sanctuary superintendent.

Remaining pieces of the rigging, which were heavier and will require lift bags for removal, were tagged with marker buoys for retrieval at a later date. Fury, one of the sanctuary's Blue Star Operators, has offered to assist with the removal of the remaining debris. Blue Star is a certification program run by the sanctuary to recognize tour operators who are committed to promoting responsible and sustainable diving and snorkeling practices to reduce the impact of these activities on coral reefs in the Florida Keys.