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  • Writer's pictureDave LeGear

The need for low-impact coastal development!

Heron on the hunt

In keeping with our "No Fish/No Florida" tagline in our series of targeted conservation articles. I found an excellent and educational YouTube video created by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and given by Dr. Aaron Adams, Senior Scientist at Harbor Branch, and the Director of Science and Conservation with our friends over Bonefish & Tarpon Trust that we feel deserves some more coverage here on The Nation even if was produced a few years ago, the message has not changed.

Much like how it shocks me in the total lack of logic when you see any development made by stripping off with a bulldozer every bit of vegetation from every parcel of land, including some large trees that may have taken hundreds of years to get that big. Only to come back after all the building is completed and plant something that is two inches in diameter, which none of us living today (maybe not even our grandchildren) will ever see get that large again... 🙄 Much less the scrubbing effects those large trees provided in putting out oxygen I suspect, is not the same by volume as the sod and shrubs planted back in their place.

Here, though, is that video, which I feel is very educational and well worth your time investment in viewing and regarding the impacts, as we have stated in articles like this one found by clicking here. Just how important recreational fishing is to our Great State and ways to help protect and improve the nurseries that those fish in Florida and other locations worldwide need to grow and survive.

There are several takeaways from our viewing of this information several times now and why we wanted to feature it.

  1. As reported but unknown just how these numbers are compiled, our State takes in an extra 1000 residents daily. If even a third of that number, that is a lot when you consider adding the infrastructure needed to house and handle the waste created by such a quickly growing population; many of them have never seen a Hurricane.

  2. And what do many of them come here to do? Of course, what our State is (maybe more like it was in certain areas) known for is our great Inshore and for those who can afford the fuel Offshore fishing!

  3. As denoted above, there seems to be this mindset of stripping off every inch of vegetation when anything is built. If we do not think that is logical for inshore acreage, it is insane to apply those same practices on our coastal lands blindly.

  4. I am not saying we should not have any development since that ship sailed long ago! This is a simple observation, and as pointed out in the video, we need to keep what we still have left as fish nurseries while working to restore areas that have been (basically) stripped of any native plants, mostly mangrove trees.

  5. Speaking of Mangrove trees, I have heard from several in my discussions that they would like to plant back some mangroves along those sections of seawall they have that are (basically) unused or needed on a day-to-day basis for boat dockage.

Mangrove creek

The problem is that if they plant them, they cannot (or must hire a qualified trimmer) return and trim them down to what one considers a lower level that is blocking the view they worked so hard to acquire out of fear of being fined by X agency for doing so! The quick guide picture below is from the Florida DEP, and you can click below to download and review more of that guide here.

Download PDF • 2.80MB

Allowabel Mangrove trimming

Plus, the 1996 Mangrove Trimming & Preservation Act, which I am sure had great intentions, reads like War and Peace or, as I like to say, "Written by Lawyers for Lawyers." Plus, add some local regulations like these found in Pinellas County; thus, the average coastal land owner will pass on even trying to comply or help bring back the cover needed to support a wider range of sea life (think $$$$ for our State economy) and does not, out of fear of reprisal! 🙄

That is pretty insane, and I think you would agree... Something is better than nothing, much less helping to defuse the impacts of storms that empty seawalls (alone) cannot provide. I would like to see some of our great conservation groups help residential and commercial waterfront landowners plant and maintain some mangrove trees or other habitat improvements around our State.

And here is an idea for those groups. How about securing support from some property insurance companies to spend less on TV ads every 15 minutes? This and use some of those marketing funds into efforts to help them save on replacing land/seawalls when the next Cat 3 or higher Hurricane slams into them by having some mangroves or other underwater structures help defuse some of the wave action.

6. Docks and walkways with metal mesh help allow sunlight to pass so seagrasses can grow underneath them, which is another helpful idea. I first noticed this when I was taking a tour of one of my old haunts, the USCG station on Sand Key near Clearwater Beach; as you can see on this Google Earth overhead shot, how that is employed and appears to be working.

USCG Sand Key

I am quite sure it is expensive to install and more than most homeowners would elect to spend. But, there is another option to help supply extra habitat under that same dockage, and that is via the use of mini reef balls like these found by clicking here. That same company also makes what they call Mangrove Cultivating Pots, which is a very interesting concept!

Overall, I am reminded of the saying, "maximum utilization of minimal space" when it comes to improving our coastal ecosystems both before and even after development has occurred to help us maintain and bring back more effective ways to both protect these spaces and grow out that next trophy gamefish you are looking to pick a fight with!

We need to work on ways to do this and look at all of it on an ROI (Return on Investment) aspect for those same dollars spent. What we are spending on raising fish to put back into our depleted coastal ecosystems, which we cover in this article, you may enjoy by clicking here. It (may) be better spent OR work in concert with the development of more natural habitat installed along the many miles of commercial and residential waterfront properties that are now just barren seawalls...

Snook under a empty dock

The fastest way I know how to spur such an effort for those landowners is to issue tax breaks (what a concept) to purchase and install habitat improvement. Even if it is to pitch a few basketball-sized cement small reef balls under their dock that are now pretty barren of life and unused space, it could go a long way to raise that next trophy-sized Redfish, Trout, or Snook that helps to account for the 9.2 Billion recreational fishing industry just in the State of Florida alone!

Now, if you would like to get a jump start on those efforts and let your accountants figure out how to enter those expenses (later), I am sure the staff over at Reef Ball Foundation could help by clicking here and letting them know that Flats Nation sent you! 😎

In the meantime,

We invite you to take in a few Flats Nation Podcast Episodes to help "Scratch that Fishing Itch" when working or traveling and you cannot hitch up the Skiff and go, on these links:

Our main podcast page works well for your mobile devices since it will stream (or download) right on your phone/tablet. It can be found by clicking Here.

Our newer Flats Nation YouTube Channel can be found by clicking Here and sharing them with family and friends if you find them Entertaining and Educational! We have some great guests in the works and planning stages on a wide range of topics and product coverage soon.

Plus, our store has some new clothing and items you can review and order by clicking here.

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Tight Lines, and God Bless!

Dave and the Team

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