Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer

Craig Pittman

Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. He graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for the Times. He is a four-time winner of the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida and a series of stories on Florida's vanishing wetlands that he wrote with Matthew Waite won the top investigative reporting award in both 2006 and 2007 from the Society of Environmental Journalists. He is the author of three books: "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid" (2012); "Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species," (2010); and, co-written with Waite, "Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss," (2009), all published by the University Press of Florida. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children.

Phone: (727) 893-8530


Twitter: @CraigTimes

  1. Florida wildlife commissioners limit harvest of sea cucumbers


    Two months after they postponed a decision to regulate the harvest of one of Florida's ugliest sea creatures, state wildlife commissioners voted Wednesday to limit how many sea cucumbers can be collected.

    However, the decision was criticized by the owner of the only sea cucumber processing plant on the East Coast of the United States, who said it would force him to shut down.

    "It's hard for me to accept being put out of business by a rule or regulation that hasn't been fully researched," said Eric Lee of the Florida Sea Cucumber Corp. in Ramrod Key, scheduled to be featured next month on Bizarre Foods, Andrew Zimmern's Travel Channel program....

  2. Florida senators moving on bill to protect springs, but House efforts stall


    With the legislative session more than half over, lawmakers in the House and Senate remain at odds over what to do — if anything — to fix Florida's ailing springs.

    In the Senate, SB 1576, sponsored by five veteran legislators, has passed two of its three committee hearings by unanimous vote. It calls for designating protection zones around 38 of the state's most prominent springs, cutting the flow of pollution from runoff and septic tanks, and safeguarding their continued flow with limits on pumping....

    Because many of Florida’s springs are major tourist draws, such as Silver Springs, their environmental woes have an economic impact on their nearby communities. Bills in the Florida Senate and House say that “the Legislature finds that springs are a unique part of this state’s scenic beauty, deserving the highest level of protection.”
  3. Hunter says he was attacked by Florida panther


    A Lake Wales hunter says he was attacked by a Florida panther while he was calling turkeys near Lake Kissimmee in Central Florida. If true, it would be the first recorded panther attack on a human since the 1800s.

    Unfortunately, say state biologists, the hunter waited three weeks to report it. That means they cannot verify that it occurred. His wounds are nearly healed, and rain that has fallen since the attack has obscured any paw prints the animal may have left behind....

  4. State parks' 'friends' upset by bills that may kill them off


    They build nature centers. They volunteer as tour guides. Some of them even pay park rangers' salaries.

    Florida's state parks wouldn't win national prizes if it weren't for the 111 "Friends of" groups that help support them, groups such as the 345-member Friends of the Island Parks in Dunedin.

    But the groups say a pair of bills that have been zooming through the Legislature this spring could doom them. At best, the legislation is likely to foul up their fundraising and long-range planning, they say....

    George Skalkeas, 63 (left), and George Fischer, 71, are shown as volunteers with the Friends of the Island Parks in this 2010 file photo. They have built more than 30 memorial benches together. They purchase the lumber at local home improvement stores, then assemble the benches on the workshop at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
  5. Striking video: Study finds sharks use all their senses to track prey


    Everybody knows that sharks sniff out the tiniest drop of blood in the ocean and swim right over to its source and start chomping. Basically, if not for that telltale scent, the sharks would never find anything to eat, right?


    A 6½-year study of three species of Florida sharks, published Wednesday, has found that in hunting prey they use all of their senses, not just their sense of smell....

    A blacktip shark is fitted with nose plugs during the study.
  6. At opening day game, Rays fans rave about renovated ballpark

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The minute Travis Morgan walked into Tropicana Field, well before the first pitch in Monday afternoon's Tampa Bay Rays home opener, he could smell something new.

    In addition to the usual smells that go with a major league ball game — hot dogs cooking, popcorn popping, beer on tap — Morgan, 27, a Tampa building remodeler, could detect the subtle scent of new wood....

  7. Study finds Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused heart defects in young tuna, amberjack (w/video)


    Oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster causes severe defects in the developing hearts of amberjack, bluefin and yellowfin tunas, federal scientists announced Monday.

    Those heart defects likely mean an early death for those fish exposed to the oil, although what the further implications might be for the future of the species are unknown at this point. Bluefin tuna in particular are already a species in jeopardy, in part due to the demand from sushi restaurants....

    Fire boats battle the fire at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 21, 2010. The rig sank and oil began spewing two days later.
  8. Relocated Everglades pythons can find their way home


    They aren't afraid of alligators. They eat everything in sight, yet they can be virtually invisible. An army of hunters vying for cash prizes didn't make a dent in their population.

    Now there's another reason to respect the horde of Burmese pythons that have overtaken much of the Everglades: Even if you take them far away, they can find their way home.

    Just like Lassie, but with scales....

  9. Lawsuit looms to protect manatees, sea turtles in Indian River Lagoon


    Manatees are threatening to sue the Florida Department of Health over leaky septic tanks tainting their habitat.

    On behalf of manatees — which are actually named as the plaintiffs in the case — two other animal species and the chairman of an environmental group, attorneys filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue state health officials Thursday over septic tank waste that has polluted the Indian River Lagoon on Florida's east coast....

  10. DEP ends attempt to sell surplus conservation land


    Almost a year after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection launched a review of its conservation lands looking for $50 million worth that it could sell as surplus, the agency is ending the program without having sold a single acre.

    "The department will not continue with this large scale conservation land sale effort," DEP press secretary Patrick Gillespie said Monday.

    The effort stirred up statewide controversy and apparently cost the department its top two land division officials — without raising a single penny of the $50 million that the Legislature had promised last year....

  11. DEP ends effort to sell $50 million worth of parks and preserved land


    Nine months after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection launched a review of its conservation lands looking for $50 million worth that it could sell as surplus, the agency is ending the program without having sold a single acre.

    "The department will not continue with this large-scale conservation land sale effort," DEP press secretary Patrick Gillespie said Monday.

    The effort stirred up statewide controversy and apparently cost the department two top officials without raising a penny of the $50 million the Legislature had promised....

  12. Four years after oil spill, 1,250-pound tar mat washes ashore in Florida


    Nearly four years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, oil continues washing ashore in Florida. On Thursday, a crew from the state Department of Environmental Protection found a 1,250-pound tar mat in the surf off Pensacola Beach.

    The mat measured about 9 feet long and 9 feet wide, the DEP crew noted in a report. They dug up as much of the gooey mess as they could and contractors hauled it away. On Friday they excavated another 100 pounds....

  13. Florida's water woes are seen as urgent — except in the House (w/video)


    A remarkable alignment of Florida political interests has occurred this year — perhaps because it's an election year, perhaps because the urgency of the problem has drawn a lot of attention.

    Gov. Rick Scott, several powerful state senators, a coalition of environmental groups and a consortium of business and industry groups all say the Legislature needs to do something this year about fixing Florida's water. ...

  14. USF study: Diseased fish show dissolved oil from BP spill as far south as Sanibel


    Dissolved oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill off Louisiana wafted underwater all the way down to Florida's Sanibel Island, sickening fish along the way, according to a new study from University of South Florida scientists.

    An upwelling of cold water from deep in the Gulf of Mexico swept the oil up onto the continental shelf about 80 miles offshore, spreading it far from where it was spewing out of a damaged rig, the study found....

    A survey of the entire Gulf Coast by University of South Florida scientists found more fish — including tilefish like this one — suffering from skin lesions in the area where the oil spill occurred than anywhere else.
  15. DEP loses top two land officials, still hasn't removed Green Swamp parcel from controversial surplus list


    Two months ago, the owner of the largest remaining parcel on the state Department of Environmental Protection's controversial surplus land list asked that it be removed. So far, that hasn't happened.

    Meanwhile, the top two officials in charge of the DEP's division of state lands have resigned. They quit within two weeks of each other.

    However, the double departure has had no effect on the ongoing review of the surplus list, DEP press secretary Patrick Gillespie said Wednesday. The remaining staff of about 130 people "is still reviewing the list, and it will be updated when that review is complete," he said....