Helping The Bahamas Recover

The photos and videos of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Dorian on Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands demonstrate that the people of that area need as much help as we can provide them. Please join Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Magazine in offering prayers for the survivors, but also dig into your wallets to provide donations to help with the recovery. For a list of ways to help, visit bahamas.com/relief.

Also be equally aware that all of the out islands of the middle to southern portions of The Bahamas were spared by the hurricane. Tourism, including fishing, are a major part of the livelihood of the nation. If you have been thinking about, or have been planning on heading to The Bahamas for some fly casting, you will find those isles welcoming and open for business. Check them out at myoutislands.com.

Fly Casting Footwear From Soft Science

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Looking for a comfortable option for gripping the casting deck of a flats boat? The Soft Science classic boating shoe has been updated with a slimmer outsole and enhanced styling. The Cruise Canvas boating shoe is a great fit for fly casters and is so comfortable that you'll want to wear yours off the boat, too. Featuring a classic boating collar, a breathable washed cotton canvas upper, and laces to customize the fit, this shoe is ideal for an active angling lifestyle.

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Lightweight, superbly cushioned and stable boating shoe

Washed Canvas upper with a classic boating collar

Drainage ports in the sole help water to escape quickly

Leather laces to customize the fit

Universal Comfort Platform – roomy, relaxed fit

Removable, washable Trileon™ insole

Trileon™ non-marking, slip-resistant outsole

Nature’s Cost-Effective Climate Change Solution

Florida International University

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Restoring seagrass meadows, mangrove forests and salt marshes could play a big role in reducing global warming.

These coastal wetlands are not the only important ecosystems. Combined with forests, farmland and grasslands, scientists have found nature could store as much as 22 percent of the annual carbon emissions in the United States, according to a new study released recently. The findings offer the most comprehensive assessment to date of how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by nature. It is the first study to include coastal wetlands and grasslands alongside forests and agriculture.

"Most thought all the carbon was stored in forests," said James Fourqurean, co-author of the study and director of FIU's coastal oceans research programs. "As it turns out, coastal wetlands including seagrasses have more carbon per area than forests. Yet, we're losing coastal wetlands faster than we're losing forests."

The study also identified management solutions that could be implemented throughout the United States to improve and expand carbon-storing capabilities within the ecosystems. These include enhanced water quality management of wetlands and increased forestation on land. The research was led by The Nature Conservancy.

"Through changes in management, along with protecting and restoring natural lands, we discovered we could reduce carbon pollution and filter water, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and have better soil health to grow our food - all at the same time," said Joe Fargione, lead author on the paper and director of science for The Nature Conservancy. "Nature offers us a simple, cost-effective way to fight climate change, one that has benefits now and for future generations."

In total, the scientists recommend 21 management practice solutions that, if implemented, could reduce carbon emissions equivalent to what is emitted by all passenger vehicles in the United States. In addition, methane emissions from coastal wetlands could be eliminated if the roughly 27 percent of tidal wetlands that have been disconnected from the oceans are reconnected. Doing so would also restore fish habitats important for coastal communities.

"The losses of ecosystems and increased methane emissions can be reversed," Fourqurean said. "The carbon storage of coastal wetlands can be enhanced with proper water quality management and planning for a future with rising sea levels."

Not only do natural climate solutions have strong benefits for personal enjoyment, healthier water, air, wildlife, and soil, many are quite affordable. As states and the federal government evaluate rules and markets for greenhouse gas emissions, these low-cost reductions from natural solutions should be part of the discussion. The peer-reviewed study brought together research from 22 institutions and was published this week in Science Advances.

FIU's coastal oceans research programs conduct international research and education outreach on issues affecting the world's oceans. The programs are part of the Institute of Water and Environment in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education.

Living Shorelines Creating Habitat, Protecting the Gulf Coast

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminsitration is working with the state partners on living shoreline projects in the Gulf of Mexico—restoring and creating resilient coastal habitats and communities damaged by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

As part of NOAA’s work restoring the Gulf of Mexico’s natural resources after Deepwater Horizon, we’re partnering with three states to build living shorelines on the coast.

Natural infrastructure solutions like these create new fish and wildlife habitat. They also protect other coastal habitat and communities.Together, these three projects will restore more than 60 acres of marsh and 66 acres of reef habitat. This will make up for some of the damages from the 2010 oil spill.

In the Gulf of Mexico, oil spills aren’t the only threat to coastal habitat. Shorelines, marsh and barrier islands normally protect habitat and communities. Storms and sea level rise, as well as industrial infrastructure, have deteriorated these habitats.

The cost to repair hard infrastructure is high—and an estimated 16 percent of the Gulf of Mexico’s coastline is hardened. Yet, living shorelines tend to cost less to install and maintain. With potential for more rainfall and more intense storms in the future, restoring and protecting natural infrastructure can in turn protect communities on the coast.

 

Three Projects in Three Gulf States

With the Alabama Swift Tract living shoreline project, NOAA led installation of natural barriers made of rocks and shells, called breakwaters. They will stabilize shorelines and create new habitat in Bon Secour Bay. More than a mile and a half of new breakwaters are absorbing wave energy and reducing shoreline erosion. Now they’re developing into healthy oyster reefs . These reefs are supporting shellfish and other invertebrates that filter water, and provide food for fish and wildlife and other species.

The Hancock County Marsh living shoreline project included construction of six miles of breakwater. It also constructed 46 acres of oyster reef habitat in Heron Bay to create similar habitat in Mississippi. We’ll also create 46 acres of marsh behind the breakwater. This will protect it from erosive wave energy in the Mississippi Sound. We’re currently monitoring success of this project and results are showing success.

Pensacola Bay, Florida will have four acres of new natural breakwaters at an area called Project Greenshores II. This will reduce wave energy, provide oyster reef habitat, and protect marsh. Additionally, there will be construction of up to eight acres of salt marsh habitat along this urban shoreline. Like most of our restoration projects, extensive stakeholder outreach helped to ensure we got it right for the community. Final design and pre-construction monitoring are underway and the project is planned to be constructed in 2020.

With each of these projects, we’re working closely with state natural resource Trustee agencies. We're also hiring private sector firms with offices and staff in Gulf Coast communities to take on some of the work, supporting blue economy jobs along the way.

Partners plant grasses along a Pensacola Bay shore protected with new reefs for oysters and other shellfish to grow. Photo: Florida DEP

 

Living Shorelines Work for Communities

Despite 90 mile-per-hour winds and four feet of flooding in New Smyrna Beach, on Florida’s Atlantic coast, another NOAA living shoreline project showed no visible damage after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Meanwhile, at least half the hard shorelines nearby were damaged. Similar post-hurricane living shoreline successes were documented at our Pivers Island project in North Carolina.

In the Gulf, as land loss and other coastal threats continue, these types of solutions could stand out as critical to protecting ecosystems and making communities more resilient.

Help Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Locate Juvenile Permit

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From Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

To sustain any fishery, we must protect the habitats that the fish we target use throughout their entire lives. These habitats not only include the places where we fish for the adults, but more importantly, the habitats that support the juveniles and sub-adults.

For permit in the Florida Keys, you can find abundant newborns (1-3 inches) on sandy beaches, and we know the adults and larger sub-adults (greater than 15 inches) live on the flats or on reefs and wrecks. However, fish between 4 and 14 inches are surprisingly rare.

These 4- to 14-inch fish might be absent because the habitats that those size fish use are becoming degraded, and as a result, there are less of that size. Or, we haven’t yet looked in the right places for them. In either case, we need to identify the habitats that these fish are using so we can restore them if they are unhealthy, or protect them so those permit have a place to grow into adults.

Please report sightings and catches of permit in the 4- to 14-inch range to Florida Keys Initiative Manager Dr. Ross Boucek, so BTT can get a better understanding of where these fish live and the habitats that support them. Email Dr. Boucek at: ross@bonefishtarpontrust.org.

 

Keeping Up with The Angling Online

Turns out social media and Face Book in particular can provide more than just a way to keep up with what grandma is up to or a plethora of cat videos to watch. There are some FB sites that are quite useful to saltwater fly fishermen, too.

Down on the Gulf Coast the Texas Saltwater Fly Fishing page (facebook.com/groups/1619723661630709/?ref=bookmarks) provides information and fishing tips about the Lone Star State’s fishing. With 270 members the group can be quite useful in planning some fishing on the western Gulf Coast.                 

In Sunshine State the Florida Saltwater Fly Fishing Group page (facebook.com/groups/1514984708753492/) has 3,137 members that regularly offer details on fishing trips and conditions, plus gear and fly tying information

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Conservation of South Florida’s Bonefish

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From Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

When we think about promoting a healthy bonefish fishery we often turn our attention to protecting large schools of adult fish patrolling the flats. Often forgotten are the more vulnerable juvenile fish, those less than three inches long, that must survive a constant barrage from predators and a chaotic, rapidly changing environment. Nowhere are the challenges faced by juvenile bonefish more evident than in the Florida Keys.

Over the years we have seen a decline in the Florida Keys bonefish population, and an unusual absence of juveniles. The cause of this decline is still unknown, but it has coincided with changes to freshwater discharge in South Florida, increases in coastal development, and higher frequency of extreme weather events. These disturbances may be responsible for negatively impacting important nursery habitats and at least partially explain the bonefish population decline.

Nurseries are potentially the most important and complex habitats that a fish will occupy during its life. They provide protection from predators, abundant sources of food, and environmental conditions that allow for fast growth and an increased chance of survival. And since juvenile bonefish are too small to move to better habitats, taking the nursery habitat away is like pulling a table cloth out from under a castle of cards; the castle will fall.

BTT collaborating scientists have identified nursery habitats in the Bahamas, where thousands of juvenile bonefish are found in shallow, seagrass-free areas that are sheltered from strong waves. In the Keys, we have checked these types of habitats and have found only a handful of juveniles. Healthy juveniles are the future of the fishery, and we are teaming up with researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute to figure out where juvenile bonefish are settling in the Florida Keys. Here is what we know so far about juvenile bonefish in the Keys:

1) Juvenile bonefish should be most prevalent in the early summer, following the winter through spring spawning season.

2) We recently learned that Bahamian juvenile bonefish use sandy or muddy bottoms with little wave action. Similar habitat in the Florida Keys is rare, and so far our sampling of these types of habitats has captured very few juvenile bonefish.

Identifying and protecting essential fish habitat is the first and most important step towards recovering the bonefish population in the Florida Keys. Once we identify bonefish nursery habitats, we can work with county, state, and federal managers to designate these habitats for protection. With a better understanding of the environmental characteristics that make for quality bonefish nurseries, we can work to restore degraded habitats, so they can become functional nurseries again. The future of the bonefish fishery may depend on the success of our habitat conservation efforts.

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Carolina Beach Inlet Too Shallow For Safe Navigation

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Channel surveys in 2019 show water depths in Carolina Beach Inlet channel are less than four feet in some areas, prompting the Coast Guard to remove aids to navigation that may mislead mariners.

On April 1, 2019, the Coast Guard will begin to temporarily discontinue 10 navigational aids in the inlet. The Army Corps of Engineers provided recent surveys, which expose significant shoaling between Buoy 1 (LLNR 30265) and Buoy 9 (LLNR 30305).

The buoys are intended to mark safe areas of passage with known depths. Leaving the buoys in place may lead mariners through an unsafe route. Boaters who choose to transit the inlet without buoys, do so at their own risk.

“The safety of mariners is our first priority,” said Cmdr. Heather Stratton, chief of prevention for Sector North Carolina. “Right now, the waterway is unsafe to navigate due to extreme shoaling and currents. Once it is safe to navigate the channel, we will reestablish the aids

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Relocates Tarpon Ahead of Development

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Recently, BTT was contacted by a group of concerned anglers regarding a development site in Tarpon Springs, FL that was inhabited by tarpon of all sizes. Most of these anglers had been fishing there for years, even decades. The water was being drained rapidly, which meant we had to act fast. After a few phone calls, we were able to contact the developer and their client to get permission to access the property and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued us a permit to relocate the fish.  After a grueling day of seining and cast-netting in the waist-deep mud and silt, we were able to relocate over 60 tarpon ranging from 12 to 40 inches. A huge success!  

This is not a typical practice for BTT, but it was an opportunity we couldn't pass up. Our studies in Southwest Florida are finding that tarpon in degraded habitats like these exhibit poor growth rates and can sometimes get trapped in these types of habitats that are hard to emigrate from once they get bigger. We are also finding that the majority of juvenile tarpon sites reported to us through our Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Mapping Project are in degraded habitats (golf course ponds, residential communities, mosquito impoundments). The misconception is that because tarpon are there, it must be good habitat. This is not always the case and does not bode well for the future of the tarpon fishery. This particular site had already been developed into a mobile home park, and with a lengthy culvert connection from the Gulf, could have trapped these tarpon for years. Relocation was the best chance for these fish to join the tarpon population.

We are very grateful for the site supervisor's constant communication and encouragement during this project. Because of the thick mud, we relied on the pumps to lower the water level so that we could more easily access the fish. A huge thanks to the anglers that have been watching this site for years and took immediate action. This would not have happened without your persistence and compassion. We'd also like to thank FWC for their swift action and the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center for use of their seine net

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Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Sea Grass Exceeds 60,000 Acres

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The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reports 2017 was the third consecutive record-breaking year for underwater grass abundance in Maryland’s portion of Chesapeake Bay.

An annual baywide survey showed 62,356 acres of underwater grasses were mapped in Maryland’s tidal waters, a 5 percent increase from 2016. This is the fifth straight year of expansion for Maryland’s underwater grasses, which surpassed the 2017 restoration goal of 57,000 acres in 2015 and continues to rise.

Baywide, the total acreage of underwater grasses exceeded 100,000 for the first time, reaching 104,843 acres?.

“The continued record growth of underwater grasses shows tremendous progress for Maryland and our partners in improving and restoring water quality throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “Knowing that the hard work by many Marylanders has gotten us here should provide the incentive to keep moving forward to a cleaner, healthier and more resilient bay.”

Underwater grasses respond quickly to improvements in water quality conditions, making them a critical indicator of restoration progress. Less nutrient pollution leads to improved water clarity, which in turn, allows for increased underwater grass growth. Also known as submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), underwater grasses are a critically important bay habitat that remove nutrients and sediment from the water column, reduce shoreline erosion, provide nursery habitat and protection for species like the blue crab and largemouth bass, and support and sustain migrating waterfowl.

“It’s exciting to witness this historic recovery of grasses in the bay,” said Brooke Landry, underwater grass biologist with the department who chairs the Chesapeake Bay Program’s SAV Workgroup. “Maryland’s commitment to improving the bay’s water quality is clearly paying off and it provides such a good example of what we can achieve with sustained efforts to reach our goals. While we’re only a bit over halfway to our ultimate restoration goal, we have surpassed our 2017 goal two years early and are on track to meet our 2025 goal.”

In Maryland, all or part of nine rivers surpassed their restoration goals. These included the Big Annemessex River at 155 percent; Chesapeake and Delaware Canal at 255 percent; the tidal fresh portion of the Chester River at 40,996 percent (the percent of the goal attained is so high due to a very small segment restoration goal); the Elk River at 113 percent; Fishing Bay at 186 percent; the Gunpowder River at 140 percent; the Manokin River at 168 percent; and the Northeast River at 113 percent. The mouth of the Choptank River reached 106 percent of its restoration goal in 2017, exceeding the goal for the first time since 1984.

An additional five river segments in Maryland reached 75 percent or more of their restoration goals. In the lower Nanticoke River, underwater grass was observed for the first time since the survey began in 1984.

The rise in underwater grass is attributed not only to a continued expansion of widgeon grass in the moderately salty mid-bay region, but to an expansion of freshwater grasses, like wild celery that grow in the upper reaches of rivers and tidal fresh portions of the bay. Maryland’s biggest and most iconic underwater grass bed, located in the Susquehanna Flats, has been steadily recovering since 2012, when grass beds were significantly reduced from high flows related to Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, and reached more than 6,100 acres (9.5 square miles) in 2017, showcasing the bed’s continued resilience.

The annual aerial survey was conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science between May and November 2017 and covered 189 flight lines. The aerial imagery is used to identify the amount and location of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake Bay and tidal tributaries. For the first time in years, there were no air space restrictions or weather constraints, so a complete survey of the entire bay was conducted.