Live Report from Northern Tip of Mon Louis Island

Restoration Project Manager, Jason Kudulis, checks out the restoration site at the tip of Mon Louis Island to see how it fared flooding from Tropical Storm Cristobal. 

Posted on 06/11/20 at 02:47 PM Permalink

Restoration Team Update

Want to know how COVID 19 has affected MBNEP's work?

From Comprehensive Watershed Planning; to shore, stream, and wetland restoration; to invasive species management; to waterborne litter and trash eradication; Mobile Bay National Estuary Program is demonstrating resilience in action, keeping all our programs alive and thriving.

Updates include:

  • Watershed Management Planning
  • Three Mile Creek: Twelve Mile Creek Restoration
  • Langan Park Lake: Invasive Species Eradication
  • Litter Abatement Programs
  • Litter Gitter Gap Funding
  • Prichard Rain Barrels
  • D’Olive Watershed Restoration
  • Deer River: Shoreline Stabilization/Marsh Protection
  • Mon Louis Island Northern Tip
  • Fowl River Restoration
  • Lower Fish River Restoration
Posted on 06/10/20 at 09:04 AM Permalink

NFWF awards Mobile Co. to construct Living Shorelines Project along the Dauphin Island

Rendering of Completed Living Shoreline along Dauphin Island Causeway

The Mobile County Commission receives award from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to construct a Living Shorelines Project along the Dauphin Island Causeway

Site of Living Shoreline Project on Dauphin Island Causeway On March 19, 2020, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced new Alabama projects to be funded by the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF) and designed to remedy harm and reduce risk of future harm to natural resources affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Mobile County Commission will receive more than $9.39 million to complete engineering design to construct habitat-friendly breakwater structures and create intertidal marsh habitat on the east side of the Dauphin Island Parkway/State Route 193. This project will create and protect critical coastal marsh habitat; enable natural processes to maintain nearshore habitats; and reduce the erosive forces of tidal action, wave energy, and storms to the shoreline and vulnerability of the only access route between south Mobile County and Dauphin Island. This is a large scale restoration project that will beneficially use material dredged from the Mobile Ship Channel to build emergent marsh habitat.

Initial planning and design activities were co-funded through NFWF’s National Coastal Resilience Program and the GEBF, while design completion, permit acquisition, and construction implementation will be co-funded through NFWF’s Emergency Coastal Resilience Fund (ECRF).

A comprehensive watershed management plan for the complex of Mobile Bay’s western shore watersheds – Garrow’s Bend, Deer River, and Delchamps Bayou – is currently in development, with shoreline protection at the forefront of management recommendations. Meanwhile, this project addresses goals and objectives of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan’s five-year Ecosystem Restoration and Protection Strategy by improving ecosystem function and resilience through protection, restoration, and conservation of coastal Alabama shorelines. The CCMP, developed by over 200 Management Conference partners from federal, state, and local partners; businesses and industry; academia and citizen groups, is based on local input and supports local priorities that protect water quality, sustain populations of key living resources, manage vital habitats, mitigate human impacts, and build citizen stewardship. It provides a road map for estuarine resource management in Alabama. The MBNEP is a partner to the Mobile County Commission with roles in securing funding and project oversight.

The mission of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program is to provide the necessary tools and support community-based efforts to promote the wise stewardship of the quality and living resources of Alabama’s estuarine waters.

Dauphin Island Causway Grant Award Press Release (PDF, 3/19/2020, 312KB) 

Posted on 04/01/20 at 04:49 PM Permalink

Natural Awakenings - Addressing the Local Impacts of Climate Change in Underserved Communities

Alabama Conservation Corps Members Receive Training on Water Quality Monitoring

MBNEP's Tom Herder's guest column in the special 2020 Earth Day issue of Natural Awakenings.

Along the northern Gulf Coast, we face increased risk from climate change-related stressors, including warmer summers, winters, and waters; increasing incidences and durations of drought; increasing frequency and intensity of tropical weather events; and sea-level rise. The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) has made significant progress in assessing and raising awareness about the impacts of climate change across all Alabama coastlines.

Several initiatives recommended in the Three Mile Creek Watershed Management Plan (WMP) from 2014 have been implemented to address low-lying, traditionally underserved, minority communities that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

MLK Avenue Leadership Academy and Conservation Corps

In 2015, MBNEP partnered with the Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue Redevelopment Corporation to train “emerging and reluctant leaders” in environmental awareness, climate change vulnerability, leadership, communication and conflict resolution. After attending 10 two-hour training sessions, the 14 participants successfully encouraged the Mobile City Council to formally adopt the Three Mile Creek WMP and recommended that education and job training be used to connect young adults with environmental assets. This recommendation culminated in the creation of the pilot Coastal Alabama Conservation Corps in 2017.

Read more on Natural Awakenings Website

Natural Awakenings - April 2020 Cover

 

 

Addressing the Local Impacts 
of Climate Change in Underserved Communities
by Tom Herder - Mobile Bay National Estuary Program

 

 

 

 


Toulmins Spring Branch Community Engagement The Coastal Alabama Conservation Corps program hired and trained under-employed, high-risk, young adults to implement smaller-scaled WMP implementation measures, such as clearing stormwater drainage infrastructure, controlling/eradicating invasive species, and providing credible community outreach. They also helped install rain barrels as the inception of the Prichard Rain Barrel Program to reduce runoff, educate residents about sources and mitigation of stormwater runoff, and provide a free source of non-potable water.

In 2015, MBNEP hired Kimberly Pettway of the University of South Alabama to lead an effort to engage Toulmins Spring Branch residents in community planning. The goal for the residents was to adapt to climate change impacts and build capacity for improving community resilience. Three community meetings were held to educate residents about the environment, causes of flooding and water pollution, and how hazards can increase due to the effects of climate change. The series concluded in an Ideas Festival to identify community assets in need of protection, offer ideas to reduce flooding, identify existing resources to increase resilience, explore opportunities to work with the City of Prichard to increase resilience, and identify community members willing to help.

Additionally, Dr. Tracie Sempier of Mississippi Alabama Sea Grant Consortium educated elected officials, state agency heads, and regional government administrators about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and Community Rating System. The insurance program (implemented by FEMA) provides federally backed flood insurance to communities that adopt minimum floodplain management requirements. The Community Rating System is an incentive program for the NFIP with goals to reduce flood losses, facilitate accurate insurance ratings, and promote the awareness of flood insurance to address vulnerabilities related to rising sea level. Dr. Sempier also led several coastal Alabama municipalities in developing Community Resilience Indices to examine their levels of preparation for storms and storm recovery.

Tom Herder is the Watershed Protection Coordinator at Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP). For more information on how the impacts of climate change are being addressed on the Gulf Coast, see MBNEP’s 2019-2023 Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan at or visit MobileBayNEP.com.

Posted on 03/31/20 at 05:21 PM Permalink

Grant Awarded for Fish River Watershed Stream Restorations by NFWF Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund

Head Cut and Shoreline Erosion at Marlow Branch

The Mobile Bay National Estuary receives award from NFWF Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund to restore conditions in and around Lower Fish River Watershed streams

Gully at Marlow Branch

On March 19, 2020, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced new Alabama projects to be funded by the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF) and designed to remedy harm and reduce risk of future harm to natural resources affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) will receive more than $6.54 million to address sediment and nutrient issues in the Lower Fish River Watershed, one of a complex of four coastal watersheds draining into Weeks Bay. Project activities will include planning, engineering and design, and permitting efforts to identify and develop solutions for six stormwater-impacted tributaries. The award will also fund engineering and design, permitting, and construction of a 1,650-linear-foot priority stream restoration project in the Marlow Community. This tributary runs south of and parallel to Baldwin County Road 32, passes under CR 9 near its intersection with CR 32, and drains into Fish River just downstream of the Fish River Bridge on CR 32. These issues were identified and restoration measures recommended in the Weeks Bay Watershed Management Plan, published in 2017 and funded through the NFWF GEBF.

Multiple tributaries within the Lower Fish River Watershed have been negatively impacted by severe erosion and nutrient enrichment in headwater areas, delivering silt and negatively impacting once-productive downstream seagrass beds and oyster reef habitats essential to coastal fishery health. Restoring and protecting priority streams and streambank corridors is vital to improving the overall water quality in this Watershed and its receiving waters in Weeks Bay. The overall project strategy will employ similar hybrid stream restoration techniques as those used to restore over two miles of degraded streams and 44 acres of floodplain and wetlands in the successful GEBF-funded D’Olive Watershed restoration project.

Restoration of D'Olive Creek Tributary between I-10 and U.S. 98 to stabilize stream banks and restore ecological function. 

Severe Stream Bank Erosion   Restoration of D'Olive Tributary D4-D6   Restored D'Olive Creek Tributary D4-D6

D'Olive Watershed Tributary D4-D6 pre-restoration, flowing from under I-10 near Mile Marker 38 south to U.S. Highway 90, reflecting severe stream bank erosion and mass slumping caused by excessive volumes and velocities of stormwater runoff. 

  This large-scale restoration involved filling the deeply incised channel and creating a new, sinuous, rock-lined channel connected to a floodplain designed to absorb and slow waters during heavy rain events. Log-rollers (using felled trees) and mid-channel rock vanes were installed to reduce energy and direct flow. Erosion control fabric and temporary grasses were used to stabilize the floodplain in the short term.   Native vegetation, including young trees, add ecological value daily to this restored stream reach, which formerly delivered tons of sediment annually downstream into Lake Forest Lake, and D'Olive and Mobile bays. Installed ponds retain stormwater and provide habitat complexity necessary for wildlife and aquatic organisms. Monitoring is in progress to determine sediment load reductions. 

 

Map of Impacted Streams in the Lower Fish River Watershed

The MBNEP is guided by a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan developed by over 200 Management Conference partners from federal, state, and local partners; businesses and industry; academia and citizen groups. It is based on local input and supports local priorities that protect water quality, sustain populations of key living resources, manage vital habitats, mitigate human impacts, and build citizen stewardship. The CCMP provides a road map for estuarine resource management in Alabama through a watershed approach that prescribes watershed management planning for areas draining to specific water bodies – independent of geopolitical boundaries. This approach ensures restoration and protection projects are based in science and fit into a well-studied and structured overall management program.

The mission of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program is to provide the necessary tools and support community-based efforts to promote the wise stewardship of the quality and living resources of Alabama’s estuarine waters.

Lower Fish River Watershed
Pink indicates degraded streams

Posted on 03/27/20 at 09:52 AM Permalink

Q&A with Gage Swann Off-Bottom Oyster Worker - Spring 2020 - AL Current Connection

Mobile Oyster Co. Oysters Ready for Market

An article from our Spring 2020 Alabama Current connection

Alabama Current Connection
Spring 2020 Vo. XIV, Issue 1

The Oyster: An Icon of Life on the Alabama Gulf Coast (PDF, 6.2MB)
 

Our guest columnist is Gage Swann, a senior Management student at the University of South Alabama, who pays bills by working at the Mobile Oyster Company, an off-bottom oyster aquaculture operation in the salty waters on the west end of Dauphin Island.

Gage Swann Sorting Oysters for Mobile Oyster Co

Q: OK, senior at USA, former offensive lineman at Huntingdon College, and recently licensed charter boat captain Gage Swann, how did you become involved in off-bottom oyster aquaculture?

A: Before I got into all those other things you mentioned, I was just a Theodore High School graduate looking for a summer job while waiting for my first semester at Huntingdon to begin. My dad was actually the person who recommended me looking into working for an oyster farm. Somewhere along the search, I got in contact with a man who managed an oyster farm out in the Bayou (La Batre), back when there was a co-op of farmers out the mouth of West Fowl River. He lined up a training day for me, and from that moment, I have been working in off-bottom oyster aquaculture. Since then I have joined the team and am currently working for Cullan Duke at the Mobile Oyster Company.

Q: Describe a typical workday at the Mobile Oyster Company Company.

A: Our days at the Mobile Oyster Company usually begin around 8:00, when my buddy Aaron, other team members, and I meet to finish our morning coffee and discuss the goals we want to have accomplished for the day. 

Sometimes we have a perfect day on Dauphin Island, and we use those days to maximize the work we do caring for the oysters on the farm itself. Every oyster farmer has a few basic obligations to the farm to grow and maintain beautiful oysters.

Gage with Young ChargesThe most important obligation is making sure you have enough oysters counted and ready for a harvest. Having these bags already made up a few days before hand helps harvest run smoothly and in a quick time frame, which is really important during the summertime.

Another task we do on nice calm days would be desiccating our oysters (by raising and flipping our cages). During the summertime, it is recommended we do this once a week or at least once every two weeks. This practice dries the outside of our equipment and the oysters to limit any sort of biofouling. Biofouling is basically growth of barnacles and algae, on our equipment and oysters. Flipping the cages is the reason our oysters come out so clean with so few barnacles or other growth on them.

The rest of our time on these types of days involves us splitting bags of growing seed oysters (to reduce bag density), so that the oysters do not overburden equipment with their increasing size and weight. We also spend time hand sorting and counting oysters for our harvest bags.

During the wintertime, we get really strong north winds which makes working the farm in our location too much of a risk. We spend these days repairing any broken equipment, like worn down oyster grow cages for example, and also servicing our work boat.

Desciccation of Oysters
Desiccation involves lifting oyster grow cages above the water surface for 24 hours, usually once per week, to control biofouling of oysters and baskets and to rattle the oysters, chipping off new growth, which, along with waves and boat wakes, produces a rounder, deeper-cupped oyster more valuable on the half-shell market.




 

 

Q: What’s tougher, a mid-July work day or an early February?

Gage Swann - Management Student, Oyster Grower

A: In my opinion, I would rather have a mid-July workday every day of the year compared to the mid- February work days! This has almost everything to do with the type of weather trend our location is subject to in the wintertime. During the wintertime of year, it is almost guaranteed the water will be in the upper 50s, and we usually have more strong north winds too. This makes the tasks of getting in the water
to tend our oysters and driving the boat very difficult and uncomfortable. By the time summer comes around, we definitely become very thankful for the usual southerly flows of wind and the warm water.

Q: With regard to environmental issues, what stressors to wild oysters are oyster farmers able to avoid or control? What stressors present the major threats to farm-cultivated oysters?

I'm no expert on what has happened to our natural oysters reefs over the years but I do believe off-bottom oyster aquaculture helps avoid some of the obvious things that hurts the natural reefs.

  • Oyster drills (the primary oyster predator) usually are not that big of a problem for us because of the fact our oysters stay in the top of the water column, rather than on the bottom.
  • We are also able to avoid any issues with sediment covering oysters during big storms or from boat wakes, etc., again because we are at the top of the water column.

As to stressors for oyster farmers-

  • Hurricanes and strong storms. These storms have the ability to take a toll on oyster farms and the equipment itself. Even when farmers don’t sink their gear, strong storm surge and currents can bury our bags on the bottom and also chafe our main lines.
  • Water quality. Things like red tides and shutdowns due to high counts of sewage-related bacteria in the water are also hard to predict and leave us idle for many weeks.

Q: As a student in management, what are the biggest challenges to managing an oyster farm?

A: I think finding the right workers who can handle the types of conditions we have to work in is sometimes our biggest problem. Currently we have a really solid team, which I am thankful for, but in the past good, reliable help has been hard to find.

Q: What is most rewarding about oyster farming?

A: I particularly like seeing our customers post pictures of our oysters on social media or hearing from people who say it is the best oyster they ever tasted.

Q: So, USA Management student, should I invest in Alabama off-bottom oyster farming A operations?

Yes. This is a young industry in Alabama compared to other coastal areas in America, but in my opinion, the Gulf Coast and especially the central Gulf Coast has some of the richest waters for growing oysters. From the time I started five summers ago up until now, I have seen a lot of industry growth in Alabama and more people willing to give oyster aquaculture a try. They are all good people who, I think, can really make a name for the Alabama oyster nationwide. And if this doesn’t sell you, just come on down to Mobile Oyster Company and try one yourself.

Download the full Alabama Current Connection Spring 2020 Vo. XIV, Issue 1: The Oyster: An Icon of Life on the Alabama Gulf Coast (PDF, 6.2MB)

Mobile Oyster Co. Barge on Dauphin Island

Posted on 03/25/20 at 11:50 AM Permalink

Tips for Social Distancing and the Outdoors

Sunset in the Mobile Tensaw Delta on Kayaks
Kayaking in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta

Adapted by MBNEP for Coastal Alabama from https://www.conservationnw.org/tips-for-social-distancing-and-the-outdoors/ written by Keiko Betcher. Thank you Conservation NW!

While the following recommendations were informed by medical experts, we at MBNEP are not public health professionals. We believe these suggestions are appropriate given circumstances in Alabama at this time, and we’ll make edits or updates as needed. However, Conditions are changing very rapidly. Please stay tuned to the center for Disease Control, local and state elected leaders, law enforcement, and health department for the most up-to-date recommendations and public safety orders. 

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to develop across this country we are deeply saddened and offer our heartfelt condolences to those who are directly impacted by this virus. 

As coastal Alabama communities increasingly adopt social distancing and with restaurants, bars, recreation facilities, and other businesses temporarily closed, it’s good to see how many of our public access points remain open. These include water access sites and boat launches and state, city, and county parks.

Nature can be restorative. It can provide some respite from stressful, busy lives, and for many of us, the outdoors is simply where we’d rather be. So during this time, it’s only natural to desire some time with nature. We encourage it for all of you who are able!

Fresh air and exercise promote both physical and mental health when practiced responsibly. 

If you choose to head outdoors, please take steps to minimize the risk you pose to vulnerable individuals and to our healthcare system. Even while outside, be sure to practice social distancing and proper hygiene.

Suggestions for practicing social distancing in the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic

Please stay home if you’re not feeling well. As tempting as it is to take a short hike, paddle, or bicycle ride, if you are exhibiting ANY symptoms, you could be putting yourself (and others) at great risk.

Meaher State Park Delta Boardwalk trailStay Local

Now is a good time to explore the trails, parks, and outdoor spaces close to home in your community. Traveling long distances to a recreation area increases risks of spreading the virus to other communities (or bringing it back with you). Especially if you are from an urban area, where the virus is quickly spreading. It’s not worth even the small risk that you could spread it to a rural community, where medical services are already scarce. 

Think about what you are hoping to get out of nature and whether you can get it without interacting with other communities.

While in the outdoors, continue to maintain a six-foot distance from others. Be mindful of those around you. If other people have stopped at a vista or viewpoint, give them some space and maybe try stopping there on your way back. If the parking lot of your favorite park looks full, move on to a different one you’ve been meaning to visit. Consider broad beaches or boardwalks, birding at a wildlife area, hiking on gated forest roads, or other outdoor activities that minimize the potential for close encounters on narrow trails.

Bring Your Own Lunch and Limit Stops

Patronizing small businesses and restaurants near your favorite access point is normally a great idea that bolsters the local economy. However, during this crisis, avoid stopping anywhere you will be in contact with others. 

Ideally, bring food from home. If you do stop, consider ordering takeout, and ask if they can deliver it to your car and if you can pay with a card over the phone. Use hand sanitizer before and after exchanging items, and encourage others to do the same. If possible, fuel up at local gas stations before you leave and when returning home. Other ways to contribute to small businesses include purchasing gift cards and shopping with local merchants, but online.

Postpone Group Activities

Choose your adventure partners carefully. Avoid crowds and groups, especially those of more than five people. Pick someone with whom you are regularly in close contact, such as family members or roommates. For now, it’s best to avoid hanging out with friends you don’t see often. Many of our local wildlife areas have good wireless reception, so instead of meeting your friends in person, consider scheduling a video chat so you can share time outside in different locations. 

Don’t Carpool

Most of the time carpooling helps cut down on traffic and prevents filling up parking lots, but it should be avoided for now.

Maintain Excellent Hygiene

Wash or sanitize your hands frequently even when you’re out in nature. Keep yourself (and your possessions) clean, especially while traveling to and from opportunities to be outdoors.

Avoid Risky or Potentially Dangerous Activities

As you go outdoors, take it easy. Hospitals and emergency rooms should be prioritized for those who are sick, so avoid activities that might result in even minor injuries. Also, don’t take your four-wheel drive on a trial run. Now is not the time to be calling roadside assistance in a remote area.

Take Proper Precautions

Enjoying the outdoors is always best done with at least one companion. But if going alone seems the best, or only, choice for you at this time, make sure to take proper precautions by packing all necessary safety equipment and your charged cell phone. Let someone know where you are going, what your plans are, and when they should expect you back. Then don’t forget to check in with them when you get back!

Enjoying nature from your home

For those who are already experiencing the impacts of the virus or don’t have ready access to transportation, check out these resources to bring some of nature’s wonders and restorative gifts to wherever you are.

The Wild with Chris Morgan

Nature Podcasts. 

There are several great podcasts about nature and the outdoors. One favorite is The Wild with Chris Morgan. Chris is a great storyteller and his podcasts make you feel as if you’re there in the wild with him!

Magazines

The National Wildlife Federation has made their Ranger Rick Magazine free online through June.

Nature Cams

Sometimes the most incredible things in nature are the rarest—and the only chance you’ll see them is on a screen. Now’s a great time to watch some nature documentaries, or check out live-streams of Alabama Coastal Foundation’s Wolf Bay Osprey Cam, videos of brown bears in Katmai National Park, bald eagles and sea otters at the Seattle Aquarium, jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and more.

Discovering AlabamaDr. Doug Phillips on Discovering Alabama

Discovering Alabama is the longest-running and most popular locally produced show on Alabama Public Television. Join Dr. Doug Phillips as he crisscrosses the state bringing the Alabama wilderness to you. Nearly all of the 87 shows can be watched free online. 

Contribute Time to Research

You can also contribute to wildlife research as a community scientist without having to leave your home. Check out some of the nature projects you can assist with on Zooniverse, an online platform for volunteer-powered research in which anyone can participate!

However you go about getting through this tough time, we hope you still get the chance to enjoy your love for the wild while staying safe and healthy.

Other Outside Activities

Walk around the block with a bag to pick up trash. (wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when you get home!)

Water Rangers App Picking up trash around the block Riding Bikes at McNally Park, Mobile

Download the Water Rangers App (iPhone/Android) and learn how to become a citizen scientist water quality monitor. 

Walk around the block with a bag to pick up trash. (wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when you get home!)

Check out some of the bicycle routes on BicycleMobile.org

Play a round of disc golf at one of the many local courses you can find on UDisk (iPhone/Android)

Find an access point or boat ramp you’ve never been to on cleanwaterfuture.com/access
Posted on 03/19/20 at 12:12 PM Permalink

Bays and Bayous Symposium 2020 - Save the Date

Bays and Bayous 2020 - Biloxi Mississippi

The 2020 Bays and Bayous Symposium will be held Dec. 1-3 at the Golden Nugget Biloxi Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. The theme for the 2020 event is "Sound Science, Sound Policy: A 2020 Vision for the Future." Bays and Bayous will begin at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 1, and end at noon on Thursday, Dec. 3.

The symposium will focus on (but is not limited to) coastal science research, education and outreach in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Scientists from universities, NGOs and government agencies will share their research findings at the event, and leaders from coastal municipalities will showcase their resilience and conservation efforts. Educators and extension professionals also will present their research and successful outreach efforts.

The Bays and Bayous Symposium Program Committee is forming, and its members will guide the content of the symposium. Popular topics at past events have included oil spill impacts, habitat management and restoration, climate and hazard resilience, living resources and water quality and supply.

Typically, the symposium includes 150-200 poster and oral presentations, and the event is known as a networking opportunity for the 350-450 coastal science professionals and students who attend. The symposium also includes special awards for top student presenters.

The event is organized by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program and many partners.

You can find updates and additional information, including sponsorship information, on the event website at baysandbayous.org.

Posted on 03/03/20 at 10:36 AM Permalink

Current Connection Spring 2020 - The Oyster: An Icon of Life on the Alabama Gulf Coast

Commercial oyster men tonging oysters near Cedar Point.

The Oyster: An Icon of Life on the Alabama Gulf Coast

by Roberta Swann, Director, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program

One thing I have learned since moving to Alabama 20 years ago is this: you can’t beat the salty, creamy taste of an oyster grown in our waters. Wild or farmed, the oyster is an iconic representative
of life along the Alabama coast. They are central to its heritage and culture, providing food, work, and a way of life to many of the folks in Bon Secour, Bayou La Batre, and other coastal communities. Having grown up in coastal Massachusetts, eating oysters has always been a part of my life. It wasn’t until I moved to Dauphin Island that I discovered how good oysters could be and how important they are to the people who live and grew up here.

The state of our oyster fishery is a cause for concern, given dwindling wild populations. Alabama’s oyster reefs in Mobile Bay, Bon Secour Bay, around Cedar Point, and in Mississippi Sound are suffering. Harvests were historically low in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, and surveys revealed so few harvestable oysters that no harvest was opened in 2018-2019. The factors underlying the reduced productivity are discussed by Alabama Marine Resources Division Director Scott Bannon in this issue, along with three separate measures AMRD is undertaking to better manage wild oyster populations.

And yet, there is great work being done to bring Alabama-grown oysters back to our tables. Gulf oysters grow rapidly and can reach maturity in as few as six months, compared to northeastern oysters which take four times that long. This simple fact provides a key for alternative methods of growing oysters. As you flip through the pages of this season’s Alabama Current Connection, learn about how oyster gardening, an outreach activity initially conceived to improve productivity on our wild reefs, has given rise to a new and burgeoning industry: off-bottom oyster aquaculture. Some former oyster gardeners and new investors have expanded operations, providing hatchery-reared, single-set oysters with a lovely shape and appearance to the premium half-shell market by count.

This issue is of particular importance to the Swann family. As the leader of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Dr. LaDon Swann has dedicated many years of oyster-related research as well as being a proponent of growing the State’s aquaculture industry. In the following pages you will learn about the Sea Grant’s significant role in the development and evolution of this exciting new industry.

When we moved to Alabama, did I ever imagine the little boy held tight on my lap as we plowed through Mobile Bay’s waves would grow up to become an oyster farmer? The answer is unequivocally NO. But today LaDon and I stand proud of our son, Gage, who has a bright future ahead of him, harvesting an oyster bounty, carving out a life on the water, and keeping our plates full of the succulent, Alabama grown oyster. My heart is happy

Alabama Current Connection
Spring 2020 Vo. XIV, Issue 1

The Oyster: An Icon of Life on the Alabama Gulf Coast (PDF, 6.2MB)
 



 

Posted on 02/28/20 at 04:54 PM Permalink

AMNS Calvert Volunteers Pull Privet in Three Mile Creek

AM/NS Calvert Volunteers Pulled Hundreds of Prive Seadlings

AM/NS Calvert Volunteers Pulled Hundreds of Privet Seedlings along Three Mile Creek | Photo by MBNEP

Mobile Bay National Estuary Program is partnering with volunteers from the Associates Program at AM/NS Calvert to address the invasive species problem in the Three Mile Creek Watershed. February 14th, they were out on The University of South Alabama's campus to pull up Chinese privet seedlings.

This area was identified because the privet here is small enough to hand pull, and we wanted to tackle the issue now before it becomes a major problem. If unchecked the area could become a privet “monoculture,” choking out all the native plant species which belong there.

Privet, Or Ligustrum, was introduced to the country by the landscaping industry in 1852 for use as an ornamental shrub. It's now a big concern for some of the same reasons it was so popular back then! It is vigorous and adapted to grows really well in both wet and dry conditions. One of the biggest problems is when birds eat the berries, their droppings provide a perfect matrix for germination and growth. As the seeds are dispersed, new saplings are generated potentially miles away from the source.

The area where we are working has a well-established native plant community including sweetbay magnolia, Virginia sweetspire, and laurel cherry. Without having to compete with invasives, natives will thrive and enhance the entire ecosystem, which depends on the food, habitat, and other services they provide.

MBNEP is very grateful to AM/NS Calvert stewards for their long-term commitment to the environment and for committing to spend one day a month volunteering as an important part of the much larger effort to manage invasive species within the watershed.

We are in need of volunteer groups to help with a variety of programs. If your group or team is interested in protecting and restoring our area waters, please get in touch with us!

Three Mile Creek Watershed Invasive Species Control Plan (PDF, 9.2MB)

Posted on 02/14/20 at 12:54 PM Permalink