CONSERVATION

Native Iguanas and Shearwaters saved from invasive mice on Allen Cay, The Bahamas

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Allen Cay, The Bahamas was declared free of damaging, invasive house mice today by a partnership restoring the Cay’s natural environment, seabirds, and Endangered iguanas.

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“This announcement is a major milestone for the recovery of Allen Cay and for our partnership. We plan to replicate this success on other islands being damaged by invasive alien species,” said Eric Carey, Executive Director for the Bahamas National Trust (BNT). The partnership includes BNT, Island Conservation, Dr. John Iverson of Earlham College, and Dr. Will Mackin. Funding support was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Recovered Oil Fund for Wildlife, and charter boat operator Powerboat Adventures and the John G. Shedd Aquarium also made significant contributions to the project.

Allen Cay supports the third largest breeding population of Audubon’s Shearwaters (Puffinus lherminieri lherminieri) in the Bahamas, as well as The Bahamas-endemic Allen Cay Rock Iguana (Cyclura cychlura inornata) listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The inadvertent introduction of non-native house mice, a primary food source for Barn Owls, led to an artificially higher number of the transient Barn Owls which then ate large numbers of Audubon’s Shearwaters. As a result, the mortality rate for Audubon’s Shearwaters was twice as high on Allen Cay compared to nearby cays without invasive rodents. The decline of Audubon’s Shearwaters and the lack of breeding iguanas were strong indicators that the Cay’s threatened natural ecosystem required action.

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In 2009, the BNT, Island Conservation, Dr. John Iverson (Earlham College), and Dr. Will Mackin forged a partnership to develop and implement plans to remove house mice from Allen Cay. To ensure and document success, the partners conducted extensive planning, field-trials, on-site monitoring, and public outreach. After careful review, The Bahamas Ministry of Environment authorized the project in April 2012. The partners then took action and implemented the removal project in May 2012.

Last week, the partnership visited the Cay, confirmed the absence of mice, and supported Earlham College scientists as they reintroduced resident iguanas that had been translocated to a nearby cay to avoid disturbance during the restoration project. The confirmation team saw early signs of a recovering island ecosystem, and preliminary findings suggest a significant drop in the Audubon’s Shearwater mortality since mice have been removed.

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The Caribbean, including the Bahamas, is home to significant biological diversity, hosting nearly 8,000 species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. However, invasive alien species—introduced flora and fauna that disrupt the island’s natural balance and compete with or eat native plants and animals—are a leading threat to native species in this region. Globally, since 1500, 80 percent of all extinctions have occurred on islands. Some 40 percent of all animal species at risk of extinction today rely on islands. “Seabirds, iguanas, and other wildlife in The Bahamas are very sensitive to introduced plants and animals. This project and similar actions can help to reverse the declines they have experienced,” said Dr. Mackin.

The mouse-removal effort is a significant part of a larger effort to restore the natural environment of Allen Cay. Subsequent work to enhance breeding habitat will be done to increase the chance of recruitment and recovery of the iguana population. Following the removal of invasive mice, natural cavities were filled with sand to provide ideal nesting sites for female Allen Cay Rock Iguanas. Such efforts will continue into the future.

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“We have just eliminated one of the biggest problems facing island iguanas today, invasive species, and now have the possibility of doubling the world’s population of the Endangered Allen Cay Rock Iguana,” said Dr. Iverson.

But there is more to be done. To ensure permanent protection of the iguanas and shearwaters, the reinvasion of invasive mice must be avoided. It is essential that recreational boaters and local fishermen understand the impacts that introduced rodents can have on these island ecosystems so they can take steps to help prevent reintroduction. To minimize the risk of reintroduction of mice, BNT will develop and implement a biosecurity plan and work with recreational boaters and fishers to reduce the risk of future invasions.

“We are excited to announce the success of this project and partnership,” said Island Conservation’s Executive Director, Bill Waldman. “The partnership has already begun to leverage this achievement into more projects to protect The Bahamas’ rich biodiversity from invasive alien species.”

Allen Cay is located in the northern Exuma Islands, approximately 60 km southeast of Nassau, The Bahamas. This karst formation is approximately 1 km long, 5 m in elevation, and 100 m wide.

NFWF Awards Angler Action Grant

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Fisheries Innovation Fund will further Angler Action’s technical and communications advances.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced that it is awarding funds to the Snook and Gamefish Foundation for the purpose of enhancing the Angler Action Program (AAP), including enhancements to the smartphone application iAngler.

sgflogoWith these funds, The Snook & Gamefish Foundation, Inc. will implement a combination of technical and communications/messaging innovations to augment the number of recreational anglers skilled in recording fishing trip data in a standardized system, which will then be used to inform stock assessments and other research. Outreach will target anglers for data collection on species found in the Southern Atlantic and Gulf states in inshore, coastal and offshore waters.

The Fisheries Innovation Fund Award from NFWF will provide $80,000, and SGF will secure matching funds from other sources to complete the project.

The Angler Action Program is a service project of the Snook & Gamefish Foundation which both contributes directly to fishery management solutions and provides a personal log book for participating anglers. iAngler is a free app for both iPhone and Android. Learn more about the program at www.angleraction.org, and www.snookfoundation.org.

Little River Trails Aquaculture Addresses Demands for Fish Consumption and Declining Flounder Populations

Friday, February 1st, 2013

By Brian Slesinski

Chicken and turkey farms abound in the south and are big business in North Carolina. North Carolina is ranked #3 nationally in Total Poultry Production, an industry worth an annual 3.3 billion dollars. But all is not well in the poultry industry. Since the economic downturn began in 2008 many North Carolina poultry farmers have lost their contracts and are struggling to survive. Converting their farms to fish farms may pardon the expression “kill two birds with one stone.”

Fish demand has been on the rise because fish and fishery products represent a valuable source of protein and essential micronutrients for balanced nutrition and good health. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) worldwide per-capita fish consumption is expected to rise 16 percent higher than the average level for 2009-2011 by 2021, and world trade of fish for human consumption is expected to expand by 25 percent from 2012-2021. Our oceans may not be able to sustain this demand. Larry Lanier and Robin Sanderson, operators of Little River Trails Aquaculture in Bunnlevel North Carolina have a financially viable solution.

Lanier and Sanderson have converted four poultry houses into a large scale fish farm. They are growing flounder and hybrid striped bass for high end restaurants. The conversion of these poultry houses was an energy-efficient project. The interior of the buildings are coated with foam insulation. The flow of water is accomplished with energy-efficient pumps, the lights are energy-efficient, and the heating and cooling system is geo-thermal. One of the four houses is a nursery and three are called “grow out” houses.

Lanier and Sanderson understand the science of growing these fish. In simple terms, the eggs hatch in smaller tanks and are raised to about an inch long. During the first two weeks after hatching the flounder are “so small that they have to eat live organisms for the first two weeks after they hatch,” Sanderson said. Sanderson grows all the food in the environment created inside the fish farm.
Farming flounder as a source of food for the market is one facet of this jewel. Raising flounder for stock enhancement would help address the problem of declining flounder populations that suffer from overfishing and habitat degradation. Tim Barefoot, a Coastal Angler Magazine/ The Angler Magazine columnist and co-chair of the N.C. Recreational Fishing Alliance hopes to see this and other farms become part of such a stock enhancement program. Barefoot chairs the Flat Bottom Girls Flounder tournament to obtain mature flounder for breeding purposes. The flounder are bred at the aquaculture center at the University of North Carolina’s Wilmington campus. Fish raised from this project have been released into the wild as a pilot project in hopes that this will become a large scale program. With the changing dynamics as the North Carolina Wildlife Resources commission gains control of the Division of Marine Fisheries, stock enhancement is likely to become a high priority in North Carolina.

Idle Iron

Friday, February 1st, 2013

By Steve McNemar

Do you hear the sound? Listen closely! Hear the sound of the world’s environmental and angling communities screaming at the top of their lungs over the destruction of some of the most prolific marine ecosystems on the planet? No? Neither do I. Quite frankly, after almost a decade since I first wrote about this matter, I have almost grown weary of wondering, “Why don’t they care?”

Next year approximately 359 oil and gas platforms are scheduled to be removed from the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). We will lose approximately 550 acres of the most prolific reef habitat on the planet.

Over the next five years nearly one-third of the GOM’s 3,600 platforms will be removed. The destruction of these 1,250 platforms will result in the loss of 1,800 acres of fish producing coral reef habitats unlike any ecosystems anywhere else on Earth.

Since I began writing about this tragedy in 2003, approximately 1,500 of these diverse ecosystems have been blown out of the water. Therefore killing or displacing 10,000 to 30,000 fish per platform and killing billions of invertebrates—corals and sponges. If one coral reef, much less 1,500 of them, had been dynamited anywhere else in the world on any structure other than an oil platform, there would have been a public outcry unlike any the world has ever heard.

Why does this happen? Federal law mandates that oil and gas platforms that have not produced oil or gas for a year must be removed from the Gulf of Mexico. This regulation was drafted back in the 1970s when no one knew what productive ecosystems these platforms would create. Latter efforts to reverse this law have gone nowhere—or at least in my opinion— largely around in circles so complex that a guy of average intellect such as I can get lost just trying to follow the reasoning.

Basically it comes down to money. Doesn’t it always? The oil and gas companies do not wish to remain liable for platforms that remain in place as vertical reefs if no release of liability is given to them. Seems reasonable. So why not give them releases if they cap the wells? How much does our country spend on other environmental endeavors? Surely the cost of maintaining the platforms’ structures and installing navigational lights and buoys are easily balanced by the cost of the great environmental losses associated with their destruction? There is also the opportunity to sell these platforms to other entities for alternative uses.

Liability could be assumed by these new owners who can use the retired platforms to provide artificial vertical reefs. Toppling a platform does no good, as the invertebrates inhabit the upper 90 feet of the water column, which is also the most productive water for fish. Alternative uses for these retired platforms can include sustainable fisheries, production of renewable energy from wind, current, wave, geo-thermal, salinity gradients and bio-fuels, recreational fishing and diving parks, fish sanctuaries, culture of pharmaceutically valuable organisms and sequestration of green house gases. Yet BOEMRE will not consider alternative uses. Go figure.

The largest insult to the environmental community and to the anglers and divers who spend 324 million dollars annually enjoying these reefs is that the Federal Government is violating its own policies as they concern protected and endangered species. According to Steve Kolian, a coastal and environmental scientist, who has been at the forefront of the effort to stop the assault upon these dynamic reefs, “It is estimated that 49 species of Federally managed fish and 25 species of protected invertebrates utilize to varying degrees the platform substrate for feeding, spawning, mating and growing to maturity. The Federal Government is bound by law (Magnuson Act) to protect coral reef organisms and reef communities. The removal of platforms destroy endangered species habitat and potentially harm and harass endangered organisms violating the Endangered Species Act.”

NOAA has recently begun to consider whether or not oil and gas platforms should be considered Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). That’s true. You can’t make up stuff like this. Almost the entire Gulf of Mexico is considered EFH except for—you guessed it. By the time NOAA gets around to declaring these prolific ecosystems EFH, if ever, the only way anglers or divers may be able to enjoy the remaining ones will be by lottery. Perhaps a concerted effort and the long awaited public outcry will finally move policy in the right direction before it is too late. What a tragedy the continued loss of these amazingly productive ecosystems would be.

For more information on this topic please visit: WWW.ECORIGS.ORG

Steve McNemar has been fishing the waters of South Louisiana for almost 50 years. An award winning outdoor writer and radio broadcaster, he is a member of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, a nationally published outdoor writer and photographer and Co-Host of the radio show Hunt, Fish Talk, he is also the CEO of U.S. Impact, Inc located in Mandeville, La. He can be reached via email at steve@usimpactinc.com

Coral Restoration: A Revolutionary Effort

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

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Coral Restoration Foundation Seeks to Restore Natural Reefs Through the Transplanting of Nursery Grown Coral

With the ever increasing effects of climate change on the world’s seas and oceans, coupled with excessive pollutants and destructive fishing techniques, coral reefs—essential to marine as well as to human life— continues to diminish at an alarming rate. In some instances reefs are, literally, dying out.

With a stated purpose aimed at combating this destructive tendency, The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) runs the world’s largest coral transport operation from their home base in Key Largo, FL. CRF grows two varieties of coral—staghorn and elkhorn—in nurseries located three miles offshore, which are then transplanted onto endangered coral reefs. These particular varieties of coral are important, as they have been such a dominant part of the reef in the Keys, which has been declining steadily since the early 1970s.

Staghorn and elkhorn are also vital components of Caribbean reefs, which scientist believe are, essentially, already dead. Despite this grim prognosis CRF has been replanting thickets of their nursery-grown coral that have begun to spawn again, and under natural conditions.

Healthy and diverse reefs are essential in the preservation of life as we now know it, and CRF is diligently pursuing its stated goals of producing their staghorn and elkhorn coral in the most effective and efficient manner possible so as to, eventually, help combat what is, in essence, a global problem by first restoring local habitats. In some instances CRF is currently replanting second and third generation coral onto reefs.

CRF is a nonprofit conservation organization. For more information on their mission to restore the world’s reefs, contact them at Coral Restoration Foundation, 5 Seagate Blvd. Key Largo FL 33037, or by calling: (303) 767-2133. Visit them on the web at: www.coralrestoration.org.

Asking for Help

Monday, January 28th, 2013

For as long as people have braved the sea, stories have surfaced about individuals being rescued by dolphins from all sorts of harrowing situations. Whether it be a story about dolphins defending a swimmer from a frenzy of sharks, or a dolphin swimming a lost drifter back to shore, these extraordinary tales are often hard to believe. Many will dismiss them as accounts of fiction; some will call them miracles. But perhaps dolphins are just much more in tune with the concepts of human emotion and compassion than we have given them credit for.

Whether or not all of these tales of dolphin-rescue are embellished or 100% true, it is clear that dolphins are able to recognize when people are in need of their help. After watching the story of Manta ray diver Keller Laros, it seems that dolphins are also able to recognize when they are in need of help from humans; and as demonstrated by Laros’ dolphin rescue, they are not unwilling to ask for it, either.

According to Laros, he and a group of divers were watching manta rays off the Coast of Hawaii when they were approached by a dolphin. The dolphin appeared to indicate to the divers that it was tangled in fishing line, and “came in to ask for help,” explained witness Martina Wing.

“I noticed he had a fishing wire wrapped around his left fin,” Laros said. “I reached out with my left hand … and gestured with my index finger ‘Come here.’ And he swam right up to me. The fact that he seemed to recognize my gesture, that blew me away.”

“He put himself in the position to allow me to most effectively remove the hook and the line,” Laros said. “That was just amazing, to think that that animal is that smart.”

Laros was able to cut the tangled line from the dolphin and set the magnificent creature on it’s way.

Fishing Community Supports Annual Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival

Friday, October 19th, 2012

By Neta Harris


The 16th Annual Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival in Brevard County, FL, scheduled for January 23-28, 2013, has long been an event supported by Coastal Angler Magazine. Rodney Smith, CAM founder and Anglers for Conservation advocate, will be doing classroom presentations from his new book, Enjoying Life on the Indian River Lagoon Coast with book-signings to follow. More and more of those who fish for recreation also have become bird and wildlife watchers for a well-rounded outdoor experience. We at the Brevard Nature Alliance have partnered with several fishing boat captains in Brevard County to assist in promoting their services that include other nature-based activities.

The Festival is a community event that draws over 5,000 participants during the six days of activities. Headquartered at Brevard Community College, Titusville Campus, the SCBWF is the largest such festival is the United States attracting local participants and those from all over Florida, nationally and internationally.

This premier event offers opportunities for participants to explore world-renowned natural areas of Florida’s Space Coast, home of the largest collection of endangered wildlife and plants in the continental United States. Activities include: field trips and outdoor workshops, pelagic boat trip, kayak and airboat adventures, art show and competition, classroom presentations, quality keynote presentations, the Raptor Project, photography learning opportunities and interaction with nationally known photographers, informal opportunities to meet national authorities on birds, plants, optics, and technology. The nature-based trade show has over 75 businesses, crafts persons, artists, national and international tour companies, and optics dealers from A-Z with the best deals in binoculars and scopes.

Please contact Neta Harris at neta@brevardnaturealliance.org or (321) 268-5224.
Visit the Festival web site at: www.spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org. For more on events and lodging on Florida’s Space Coast, call (877) 572-3224 or visit www.visitSpaceCoast.com.

Save the Sawfish

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Science and the pinnacle of big-game fishing come together in this film, which features some of the only known video ever captured in the wild of one of the world's most endangered fish, the largest fish in Florida's inshore waters and the first marine fish protected by the Endangered Species Act – the smalltooth sawfish.

Catch and Release

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Catch and Release from Dugomo on Vimeo.

Don’t forget that releasing a fish can be just as rewarding as catching one. Reflect on the beauty of conservation with these memorable catch and release moments.

Ho’omanaz

Friday, August 10th, 2012

HO’OMANAZ from cliff kapono on Vimeo.

Ho’omana (to make “Mana”, or life force energy)

Story by Adam Palumbo
filmed and edited by Cliff Kapono

Some may claim the title “waterman,” but it is a term my friends and I don’t throw around lightly. However, credit must be given where credit is due — and Cliff Kapono of Hilo, Hawaii is exactly that — a true waterman.

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Are Past Sailfish Conservation Efforts Now Paying Dividends For The Bahamas?

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

bahamas_sailBy: Doug Rowe

Growing up and fishing in South Florida, I remember seeing old photos of proud anglers, and while driving down A1A to the charter boat docks, seeing sailfish hanging upside down on the catch-board back at the docks. Even as late as 1983, when I got a part-time job on a sportfishing charter boat at Pier 66 Marina in Ft. Lauderdale, it was okay to take sails back to the docks. I also remember that catching one or two fish was really a good day; oh what a difference 30 years makes!

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