The Blog Aquatic » alabama http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Mon, 18 Aug 2014 20:20:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 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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Don’t Miss This Major Step Toward Gulf Restoration http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/28/dont-miss-this-major-step-toward-gulf-restoration/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/28/dont-miss-this-major-step-toward-gulf-restoration/#comments Thu, 28 Jun 2012 20:35:33 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1360

Shrimp boats outfitted to skim oil head out of Grand Isle to clean up the massive oil before it hits the Louisiana shore, Wed., June 9, 2010. Credit: Cheryl Gerber

No question it’s a big news day in Washington.  One big thing we want to make sure doesn’t get lost in the mix is the inclusion of the RESTORE Act in the final Transportation bill that Congress will vote on this week.  Directing the fines BP and other parties responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster have to pay back to the Gulf for restoration has been a key priority of ours since the early days of this ordeal.

Thanks are in order to Senator Boxer for her leadership in the negotiations and the Senators and Representatives from the Gulf States, particularly Senators Landrieu, Nelson, and Shelby, and Representative Scalise for their work in shepherding the bill to final passage.  We’d like to thank Senator Nelson of Florida specifically for making sure the bill includes a science and monitoring program, which is always a crucial issue for Ocean Conservancy.

As our press statement says, “The Transportation bill is far from perfect, but passing the RESTORE Act is a big win for the people and waters of the Gulf. The RESTORE Act will direct funding toward the places where it’s needed most — to execute a comprehensive ecosystem restoration plan and to ensure the future health of the birds, dolphins, sea turtles, fish and, of course, the local communities that greatly depend on our oceans.”

In the coming days and weeks we’ll talk more about the good, and not so good, parts of the bill and what needs to happen next (like resolving the legal case against BP so that the money can actually start flowing).

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