b"sure, water quality issues and loss of critical habitat were taking their toll. By 1980, snook populations were beginning to exhibit recruitment failures, which in turn led to increased angling regulations.Resource managers needed scientific evidence to demonstrate to the public that regulations were needed.Biologists at the field lab were tapped once again to study the problem.By this time John Jolley had left the world of marine science and a new biologist, Jim Whittington, came on board.He and Irby co-ordinated a snook tagging and data collection effort that, like the labs sailfish effort before, enlisted cooperative support from local anglers, many of whom were WPBFC members.George Lott was among them. Since the lab did not have their own boat, George would take the biologists to the inlet in his 23 foot Robalo.Some days they would tag well over 50 fish.Snook fishing experts like Pete Schulz, Gary Borland, Tommy Heisler and others, were also among some of the labs most valuable volunteers.All ex-perienced anglers, they not only tagged thousands of snook, but they taught biologists how, where and when to catch them.Equally as important, wasJim Whittington & FWC biologistshow to catch the bait. Lott Brothers Tackle Shop played an important role measure & prepare to insert an internal early on, helping collect snook carcasses from their customers so biologistsanchor tag into a snook.could extract otiliths (ear bones) to assist with age and growth research. Soon this cooperative effort expanded to other regions andWhats Going On at The Lab Now?tackle shops.Through the years, the lab's snook research publica-tions have provided invaluableFisheries Independent Monitoring using 600-foot haul seines information for managing snookare currently underway in the southern IRL from Vero Beach to populations sustainably.Accord- Jupiter Inlet.The lab is also participating in age-1 snook moni-ing to Irby, without the WPBFCtoring with small seines in the coastal rivers and adjacent habitat and the active involvement ofthat include the Loxahatchee and St. Lucie systems to provide its members, the labs snookcritical data on recruitment.The lab is also cooperating with program would never have beenPalm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources a success. Management to assess fish populations in Lake Worth Lagoon During its next search for aaround Snook Islands and Grassy Flats enhancement areas and new home, the lab had the op- Munyon Island.Such studies are in addition to long-term moni-portunity to move to the Jupitertoring of snook populations by sampling recreational catches.Lighthouse property, but thatThe field lab also houses the Fisheries Dependent Monitoring deal fell through.Eventually,group, port samplers who collect data from fishermen at public Floridas Marine Patrol site,docks, marinas, drift boats or anywhere that recreational and Ed Irby tags a snook located on the corner of US High- commercial catches are landed along our coast.Valuable inter-way 1 and County Line Road instate migratory research and data sharing efforts are currently Tequesta became available.In years past, the main build- underway using acoustic telemetry gear as well.All of these ing had been Palm Beach Countys Welcome Center evenprojects have been enthusiastically supported by the WPBFC though the site is actually in Martin County.Nearby wassince inception.County Line Pizzas original home, no doubt a side benefit of the move.The pizza shop is gone, but our field lab remains.FWC staff pull a haul seineToday this FWRI lab is the only real FWC research facil- in the IRL ity along the southeast Florida coast outside of the Keys. It currently houses over 25 biologists and technicians who are actively conducting research on snook, cobia, goliath grouper, sea turtles, manatees and more.Since southeast Florida is the population center of the state and the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) is just up the road, the lab is uniquely positioned to take on future environmental challenges. The WPBFC remains grateful that the field lab and staff are playing such a vital role in fisheries research.The lab has come a long way from those early days inside the WPBFC. We look forward to our future collaborations.T ighTL inesB uLLeTin- s pring2020 49"