Ocean Currents » alabama http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 09 Feb 2016 19:52:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Gulf States Turn Down Management of Red Snapper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/28/gulf-states-turn-down-management-of-red-snapper/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/28/gulf-states-turn-down-management-of-red-snapper/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 21:14:44 +0000 J.P. Brooker http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11411

Why would you turn down a good thing?

“No, thank you.” That’s what Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi said to a tool that would have empowered them to create individual and specific regulations for private fisherman in state waters at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council today.

This plan, called “Regional Management,” would have delivered a real and meaningful chance for private recreational fishermen from throughout the five states to fish under regulatory conditions that cater directly to their local needs. Fishermen from each state need to fish at different times of year, with different techniques and different local knowledge, out of ports that range in character and culture from Naples, Florida to Venice, Louisiana to Brownsville, Texas.

The benefits are clear.

Anglers would have customized access to red snapper. There would be greater accountability from the private recreational component. And it would lower the likelihood that the recreational component exceeds the overall red snapper quota season after season. In the long run, fewer quota overages and greater stability in the fishery would mean red snapper would continue to successfully rebuild and catch limits would continue to increase as the stock rebounds.

As an avid recreational fisherman and an Ocean Conservancy representative at the meeting, I was extremely disappointed that the voting bloc led by the five Gulf states rejected the plan.

The state wildlife agency representatives remained intractable. Not only were they unable to agree on the state red snapper quota allocations, they were also unwilling to move forward with the amendment without charter fishermen. The latter prefer federal management where they already have prospects of developing new management tools to benefit their fishery and expand access for their clients.

So what does this mean? 

The unfortunate outcome of the states’ failure to proceed with Regional Management is that private anglers will likely continue to see their seasons throttled, rebuilding progress of the stock is jeopardized, and quota overages in the recreational fishery will persist.

Click here to learn more about red snapper. 

 

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Postcards from Alabama http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/13/postcards-from-alabama/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/13/postcards-from-alabama/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:00:58 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10064

To commemorate five years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began, Ocean Conservancy interviewed residents about the disaster, its impacts and what the Gulf means to them. Over the next 87 days—the length of the disaster itself—we will be releasing “postcards from the Gulf” to share their stories. This blog is the first in a series of full-length interviews from our postcards.  Be sure to follow Ocean Conservancy on Facebook and Twitter over the next couple of months to see all of the postcards.

Alabama is a special place, not only because of its unique landscape and abundant wildlife but also because of its people. Those of us who grew up in coastal Alabama did so with fishing pole in hand and feet in the water. It’s a privilege to work each day to preserve and protect this beautiful place alongside incredible people like Tammy and Matt. Here are their postcards.

Tammy Herrington
Executive Director of Conservation Alabama
Mobile, AL

What do you love about the Gulf?
The Gulf of Mexico is this vast and mysterious creature that pulls us to its shores and provides such abundance to our communities. It makes this area of the country unique, and it ties together all of us who rely on it. I love eating the shrimp, crabs, oysters and fish that it provides. I love the many cultures of people that live along the Gulf, and all of this together is my home and the reason I work so hard to protect it.

How did you feel when the BP oil disaster began?
When we first heard about the blowout on the rig, we didn’t believe it would impact Alabama, but that quickly changed. As gallon after gallon of oil spewed into the Gulf with no end in sight, I realized for the first time in my life that we could lose all the things I love about my home—the Gulf of Mexico and the abundance that comes from it, the beautiful sugar sand beaches, eating the seafood, all of it. I looked at my husband weeks into the disaster and said to him, “What if we have to leave?” The idea of raising my children elsewhere or not being able to offer them the childhood I imagined was inconceivable to me.

What have you learned from the BP oil disaster?
Now I have a renewed passion and appreciation for the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf Coast. Our communities are resilient and have managed to once again make it through a devastating disaster. I am proud to call the Gulf Coast my home. As research continues to show what has been lost or damaged, my hope is that we can use that knowledge to restore and protect the Gulf of Mexico, the abundance that comes out of its waters and the communities that rely on it.

What is your hope for restoring the Gulf?
The BP oil disaster was an environmental disaster that impacted the economy and the communities along its shores. I want to see us restore our natural resources and make our communities stronger and more able to avert this type of disaster in the future.

I’ve lived in four of the five Gulf states, and there is no other area of this country I love more. When I graduated from college I couldn’t wait to leave, but once I did, I realized how passionate I am about my home and its people. There are many cultures across the five Gulf states, but we are tied together by our connection to this vast body of water. We must work together to protect our home and our heritage so we can pass it along to the next generation.

Matt Seese
Mobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association
Mobile, AL

What do you love about the Gulf?
I grew up on the Gulf Coast and fell in love with the creatures that live in its waters at a very young age. Fishing from the shore, my pirogue, or my little flat boat was how I tried to spend every free minute I had. From running on mud flats catching minnows with my brothers, to throwing a cast net for shrimp every night of the hot summers, I was, or was trying to be, on the water.

How did you feel when the BP oil disaster began?
I was saddened by the loss of life and thought about how devastating it must have been for the families of those killed in the explosions to get that horrible phone call. I was angry at the response from those responsible and frustrated by the lack of progress in capping the well. Shortly after the spill, we decided to “go to the beach one last time” and rented one of those condos on sale. I sat on the balcony and watched the sheen of oil come in with the tide and smelled that undeniable odor that told us the oil was here. I watched a woman trying to rinse the oil off of her child’s feet.

Now, the spill seems to have fallen away from most people’s purview. The booms that surrounded Mobile Bay are long gone. For me, it’s still there like an old wound. I wonder about the long-term effects of that much oil and that much dispersant and how it will affect the Gulf. Selfishly, I wonder how it impacted the speckled trout and redfish populations and if I can still chase my dream of the eight-pound trout.

What have you learned from the BP oil disaster?
I think the biggest takeaway for me is the widespread effect that the health of the Gulf has on our coastal communities.  We sort of knew that already, but sometimes it takes a major event to truly quantify the economic and social impacts that nature has on our everyday lives. I also learned that not only is nature resilient, but so are the residents of the Gulf Coast. Whether it’s a man-made disaster like the oil spill or a natural disaster like a hurricane, we are overcomers. We find ways to pull together across social, political, racial and economic divides to help out when we get knocked down.

What is your hope for restoring the Gulf?
I would like to see the Gulf Coast made whole in terms of habitat restoration, recreational accessibility, and sustainable commercial viability. By restoring the habitats and allowing everyone the recreational access to see what a treasure the Gulf really is, we can bring necessary attention to the restoration efforts. I would also like to see an emphasis on fisheries science to help monitor the health of both recreational and commercially important species.

More blogs from this series:
Coming soon.

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Communities Come Together to Restore the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/04/02/communities-coming-together-to-restore-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/04/02/communities-coming-together-to-restore-the-gulf/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 13:30:48 +0000 Michelle Erenberg http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7970

Great things happen when people come together and collaborate on a shared vision, especially when that shared vision is a healthier Gulf of Mexico. This notion rang true at a series of workshops Ocean Conservancy helped to coordinate in Mobile and Baldwin counties on the Alabama Gulf Coast. These “Community Conversations” were an opportunity to share information with and collect ideas from residents and business owners about the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund.

As you might remember, NFWF established this fund with $2.544 billion from a settlement resolving the criminal cases against BP and Transocean as a result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Alabama will receive $356 million over the next five years to fund projects that benefit Alabama’s coastal and marine wildlife and habitats. Last fall, 22 projects were selected to restore and protect our natural resources around the Gulf Coast. Alabama received $12.6 million for three projects, which will restore oyster reefs and watersheds around Mobile Bay.

As NFWF begins to look toward the next phase of funding, it is important that communities begin to think about their priorities for restoring the natural resources in the coastal and marine environments.

Providing a forum and an opportunity for a conversation about community restoration priorities, the workshops proved to be a great success, with a total of nearly 100 people in attendance. Not only did residents have the opportunity to share their ideas for Gulf restoration with their neighbors, but the director of the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund for Alabama, Florida and Mississippi was on hand to give more information about the purpose of the fund and the process of soliciting and selecting project proposals. Officials from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, as well as local elected officials, were also there to hear what folks had to say. The most valuable part of these workshops was the hour spent in small groups with community members talking about restoration priorities and activities needed in their communities.

Those who attended identified their top priorities for restoration in Alabama, including improving water quality and restoring estuaries, rivers, streams, wetlands, marshes and oyster reefs. Many people expressed a need for better public access to beaches and water. It was clear that their vision for Alabama focused on investments in sustainable, resilient environments and economies; a sustainable fishing industry; clean waters, bays and estuaries; and a good quality of life for all people living on the coast.

The feedback from these community conversations will be compiled into a report to be given to restoration authorities, including NFWF and state agencies, to inform their decision-making. Meaningful public engagement is critical to the success of restoration in the Gulf, and Ocean Conservancy is proud to help our local leaders in that effort.

For more information about Gulf restoration through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, check out our fact sheet.

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Restoring Mobile Bay with 600 of our closest friends http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/04/11/restoring-mobile-bay-with-600-of-our-closest-friends/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/04/11/restoring-mobile-bay-with-600-of-our-closest-friends/#comments Thu, 11 Apr 2013 21:33:17 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5421

Credit: Erika Nortemann/TNC

Last weekend my coworkers and I had the unique opportunity to get our feet wet in Mobile Bay and help our partners build a living shoreline. This amazing restoration project took place at Pelican Point near Fairhope, Alabama. Over 600 volunteers, including 300 airmen from Keesler Air Force Base, turned out early Saturday morning to help construct what in a few years will become an oyster reef teeming with life.

A living shoreline is an innovative approach to protecting an eroding shoreline, as well as creating habitat for the creatures that live in the bay. The Pelican Point living shoreline was created using structures called “oyster castles,” which are made up of interlocking concrete blocks. These concrete blocks weigh about 35 pounds each, so volunteers not only got to participate in building a reef, they also got a great workout!

A total of four oyster reefs will be built with 20,500 of these blocks when the project is complete. These four reefs will protect 329 feet of natural shoreline by helping to minimize erosion from boat wakes and strong waves generated by storms. Baby oysters, also known as spat, will attach to almost any hard substrate. These oyster castles will soon serve as a home for thousands of tiny oysters, and the reef will begin to come alive with all manner of marine life. Oysters are also a great way to improve water quality. Just one of these small bivalves has the ability to filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.

This restoration project is part of the 100-1000 Restore Coastal Alabama initiative. In the wake of the BP oil disaster and led in part by our own Bethany Kraft, the Alabama Coastal Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, Mobile Baykeeper, and the Ocean Foundation came together to launch the 100-100 Restore Coastal Alabama partnership as a first step in restoring the Alabama coast. The initiative will build 100 miles of oyster reefs and living shorelines to promote the growth of 1,000 acres of coastal marsh and seagrass beds. The Pelican Point project puts the 100-1000 initiative over the two mile mark for oyster reef restoration.

Ocean Conservancy would like to send out a big high five to the organizers of the Pelican Point restoration project, as well as to all the volunteers, military personal, contractors and organizations who participated. Keep up the great work, and we look forward to the next 100-1000 project!

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An Alabama Fishing Trip for the Memory Book http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/05/an-alabama-fishing-trip-for-the-memory-book/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/05/an-alabama-fishing-trip-for-the-memory-book/#comments Tue, 05 Feb 2013 21:00:19 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4507

Recently I had the pleasure of fishing with local fishing celebrity Gary Finch of the Gary Finch Outdoors TV show. When I first met Gary, he was speaking to a crowd about ocean conservation, and before too long we scheduled a fishing trip together. Little did I know we were going out with one of the best boat captains in south Alabama, William Manci of Eastern Shore Outfitters.

My colleague Bethany Kraft and I arrived at the boat launch ready to enjoy a great day of fishing. The weather was perfect–warm with a hint of fall in the air. As we headed out into Mobile Bay, the water was as smooth as glass. Dolphins played in the boat wake, and pelicans dove for breakfast as we skimmed across the water. We anchored near a natural gas rig and put our game faces on. Soon we were catching speckled trout and a few white trout. As the day went on, the fish got bigger and feistier, and we started catching Spanish mackerel. I got a bite just about every time I threw my line in the water. It was amazing!

As we headed back toward Weeks Bay, I couldn’t help but reflect on the day’s events. I thought about how exciting it was just being out on the water catching fish and the contentment that comes from being surrounded by the beauty of the bay and the creatures in and around it– all the things we science folks call natural resources. It sounds corny, but each time I’m out on the water I’m reminded how much I love this place. These natural resources belong to everyone and should be available for everyone, including future generations, to enjoy.

With the passing of the RESTORE Act , the federal government determined that the Clean Water Act Fines resulting from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster should come back to the Gulf region for ecosystem restoration. This puts citizens like you and me in a powerful position to protect the places we love. It is up to us to tell our elected officials what we want for the future of our natural resources both inshore and offshore. Each Gulf state has a governing body that will manage these funds. Find out who the local leaders are in your state, and let them know your thoughts on restoring and conserving these precious resources. You can check your local PBS station for airings of Gary Finch Outdoors, and stay tuned to our website for more on how you can help restore the Gulf of Mexico.

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Building a Mosaic of Restoration Projects for the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/19/building-a-mosaic-of-restoration-projects-for-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/19/building-a-mosaic-of-restoration-projects-for-the-gulf/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2012 14:38:52 +0000 Denny Takahashi Kelso http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1807 sea turtle mosaic

Credit: luxomedia flickr stream

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster harmed communities from Texas to Florida and damaged the Gulf ecosystem from the ocean floor to the surface across a vast swath of waters and shoreline. Restoring these damaged resources will require a comprehensive, Gulf-wide restoration plan that covers coastal environments, blue-water resources and Gulf communities.

Because wildlife like birds, fish and marine mammals move throughout the ecosystem making use of coastal, nearshore and offshore environments, effective restoration requires a holistic approach. For example, restoration efforts for oyster reefs or barrier islands in Texas should complement the work done in Alabama or in Florida so that the full suite of species and habitats can recover.

The state and federal officials responsible for creating such a plan, the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees, are making decisions about how to spend the balance of the $1 billion committed by BP for early restoration. The decisions they make about early restoration and about the longer-term restoration program to follow have the potential to pay enormous dividends to the Gulf for generations.

To help the Trustees build an effective plan, a coalition of nonprofit groups, including Ocean Conservancy, has created a portfolio of 39 projects that reflect an integrated and Gulf-wide approach to restoration.

No doubt, other projects could have been included, but the point is to start a conversation about how we collectively fulfill our vision of a healthy and prosperous Gulf. This portfolio is more than a mosaic of projects; it also initiates an ongoing dialogue about how to most effectively restore the damage to the Gulf from the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

Here are a few examples from the portfolio:

  • Sea Turtle Nesting Beach Conservation: The five species of sea turtles found in the Gulf are all either endangered or threatened. This project would protect their nesting habitat and nearby waters as well as provide for rehabilitation and care of injured sea turtles.
  • Large-scale Seagrass Restoration and Protection: Seagrass beds are essential components of healthy, productive and biodiverse aquatic ecosystems. This project aims to restore those areas damaged by vessel traffic, boom placement and other response and recovery efforts in ecologically sensitive areas.
  • Monitoring Marine Mammals, Sea Turtles and Bluefin Tuna: Additional observation and biological sampling in the Gulf will help scientists understand any lingering oil-exposure effects on these species.
  • Oyster Reef Restoration: Rebuilding reefs for juvenile oysters to colonize also provides nursery habitat for fish and nesting area for birds while protecting shorelines from erosion.
  • Threatened Coral Recovery: Restoration of shallow-water corals will provide critical habitat for fishes and other reef inhabitants, improving the health and resilience of this unique reef community.
  • Rebuilding Marsh and Barrier Islands: Marsh areas provide nursery habitat and help prevent dead zones by absorbing excess nutrients; barrier islands provide critical habitat for nesting birds. By restoring these ecosystems, a wide range of Gulf species benefit.
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Encouraging Surprises Mark Turtle Nesting Time in the Gulf of Mexico http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/06/unexpected-surprises-mark-turtle-nesting-time-in-the-gulf-of-mexico/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/06/unexpected-surprises-mark-turtle-nesting-time-in-the-gulf-of-mexico/#comments Fri, 06 Jul 2012 15:36:46 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1520

Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling by Jacey Biery

There is nothing more satisfying than when wonderful surprises turn up in unexpected places — like a $5 bill left in your blue jeans, or loggerhead sea turtles in Mississippi. Wait, what?

Yep. After an absence of 20 some odd years, two loggerhead sea turtle nests on Mississippi’s coast have scientists scratching their heads over what Institute for Marine Mammal Studies executive director Dr. Moby Solangi is calling a “very important and significant phenomena.”

Experts are not sure why these turtles chose to nest on the Mississippi coast this year. Whether due to a loss of ideal habitat in other areas, or competition for prime nesting space, this year is an usual one for sea turtles in the Gulf.

Not to be outdone by Mississippi, Alabama’s beaches are also experiencing an uptick in turtle traffic. Check out this recent article in the Mobile Press-Register about higher than normal numbers of turtles nesting on the sugar white sands of Alabama.  Share the Beach volunteers in Alabama are working overtime to mark and protect the nests to ensure that as many sea turtles as possible make it to the Gulf, hopefully to return one day to the same beach to start a family of their own!

Habitat loss and human activity are two of the biggest threats to that happening. In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon disaster oiled miles of nesting habitat in the Gulf, and of course many turtles were harmed or killed by oil, making every acre of habitat and every egg laid precious.

What you can do to help:

  1. Support restoration in the Gulf. Ample nesting habitat is critical to sea turtles. And because they return to the same spot they hatched to lay their own eggs, we need to conserve and protect habitat for the long haul. From Florida to Texas, the health of sea turtle populations relies on our dedication and effort to protect them both in and out of the water.
  2. Share the Beach! When you head out to the beach for a little R&R, remember that you aren’t the only one enjoying the sand and surf. Turn off all outside lights at your hotel or condo at night. After hatching, sea turtles are guided into the water by the light of the moon and artificial lighting can confuse them.
  3. Don’t leave trash on the beach. Whatever you bring to the beach, take it with you or dispose of it properly.
  4. If you see a nest, don’t disturb it. It’s not only against the law, it’s not very nice.

Nesting season runs through October. Hopefully we will continue to bring you glad turtle tidings from the Gulf.

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