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Heather Stafford

Heather Stafford

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Heather Stafford

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  1. Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve Department of Environmental Protection Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas Heather Stafford heather.stafford@dep.state.fl.us Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves 12301 Burnt Store Road Punta Gorda, Fl 33955 941-575-5861 ext 106 Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve 700-1 Fisherman’s Wharf Fort Myers Beach, Fl 33931 239-463-3240

  2. Designated in 1966 as Florida’s first Aquatic Preserve Comprised of 11,000 acres of sovereign submerged lands Estero Bay is influenced by tidal flow from the Gulf of Mexico and five fresh water tributaries that feed into the estuary Seagrass beds, mangrove islands, salt marshes, tidal flats and oyster bars are all part of the diverse habitat Our mission: To protect, conserve and manage Florida’s aquatic ecosystems through environmental education, resource management, scientific research, environmental monitoring and partnerships.

  3. Challenges for Estero Bay • Derelict, stored and live-aboard vessels • Loss of seagrass • Prop scarring • Water quality • Fuel spills • Development • Monofilament • Increased public use • Wildlife injury and mortality

  4. Monitoring Programs

  5. Water Quality Continuous Monitoring at 3 sites is achieved by using data sondes that are switched out every two weeks Tributary Monitoring is conducted at 7 sites providing data for the salt and fresh water portions of the Estero Bay tributaries Charlotte Harbor Estuaries Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network includes 7 sites in EBAP which are monitored at sunrise on the first Monday of every month

  6. Seagrass Monitoring • Surveys are conducted twice a year at 7 sites • Monitoring design and implementation is coordinated with other agencies to allow for future data correlation • Surveys document trends in seagrass coverage and species composition • Monitor natural variation in grass beds • Asses population effects and boating impacts

  7. Rookery Monitoring and Protection Program • Historic and active rookeries are monitored once a month from March to June • Volunteers and staff count nests and nesting pairs by species for each island • Population trends are documented • Pre and post nesting season monofilament cleanups are conducted on rookery islands • Project partners include Audubon of Florida and Lee County

  8. Listed Species Management • Respond to dolphin and manatee stranding in partnership with Marine Mammal Stranding Network • Assist sea turtles and wading birds in distress • Monitor wading bird populations

  9. N Land Acquisition • Refine land acquisition priorities with DRP and DSL • Promote acquisition of lands within the watershed • Support Lee County’s Conservation 20/20 program to protect lands in the Estero Bay watershed http://data.labins.org/imf2/FREAC/FNAI2.jsp?

  10. Education and Outreach • Formal PowerPoint presentations about EBAP and CAMA programs are given by request • A collection of historical documents pertaining to the designation of Estero Bay as an aquatic preserve are being archived • Wading trips are open to the public and take place throughout the year, included in Leadership Bonita program • “Ebb Tide” is a quarterly newsletter produced by staff and our citizen support organization, Estero Bay Buddies (EBB) • Participate in festivals and events with EBB including Monofilament Madness, National Coastal Cleanup, National Estuary Day, Earth Day, Discovery Day and Outdoor Adventure Day

  11. Permitting • DEP and SFWMD permits are reviewed • Site inspections are conducted • AP concerns are discussed at monthly meeting with DEP and SFWMD • Violations are reported to appropriate agencies

  12. Volunteers • Get Involved! • Monofilament Cleanup- help clean islands and protect our rookeries • Rookery Surveys- help monitor the birds in Estero Bay • Water Quality- help track changes in WQ by monitoring at sunrise on the first Monday of the month • Join the Estero Bay Buddies

  13. Community Engagements and Partnerships • Rookery monitoring and protection is conducted in partnership with Audubon of Florida and Lee County • CHNEP provides support for wading trips and CHEVWQMN • EBAP works cooperatively on projects and management programs with Lovers Key and Estero Bay Preserve State Parks • Tributary monitoring is conducted through a partnership with Lee County • Staff work with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and CROW to assist injured wildlife • Committee involvement includes ABM, CHNEP, LCMLETF, LCWAC, EBNMP and more • SFWMD, ACOE, FWC, USFWS, EPA, DEP, and local government attend monthly permitting meetings • Assist FGCU with oyster reef restoration and other research projects