Incredible? Yes, it is. And what is even more incredible is that decades ago this 2019 bonanza day of sailfishing was put into action by the Stuart Sailfish Club of the 1930s.
Let’s read some history:
“Immediately after the clubs incorporation, Ernie Lyons announced the next immediate goal was the creation of a release button to be given to individuals who consistently release their sailfish”. (Sandra Thurlow, Stuart on the St Lucie)
This was indeed done but not before a carnage ensued motivating the club even more so.
“Ironically right at the heels of the Sailfish Club’s official charter to promote conservation, the largest sailfish run in Florid’s history occurred off the St Lucie Inlet at Stuart. Records show that more than 5000 sailfish were caught in the 90 day period. January through March 1941. Many sportsman let their sailfish go free but thousand were slaughtered only to be dumped into the river, carted off by garbage collectors, or used for shark bait. Stuart’s reputation as the Sailfish Capital of the World was affirmed, but so was the need for conservation of the species if its fame was to endure. Because of the efforts of the Stuart Sailfish Club, anglers soon began to compete for Curt Whiticar’s beautifully designed release button in preference to all the rest.”
Kudos to those before us, who held the line giving the successes we have today!
CRC Proposal #46, Land Acquisition Trust Fund, ~Clarifying Language in the Constitution for Citizen Initiative, Amendment 1, of 2014
I will present proposal #46 to the CRC Legislative Committee this Wednesday. You can support this proposal, or express your thoughts on the issue by writing the members of the Legislative Committee: https://www.flcrc.gov/Committees/LE/, or by attending the meeting and speaking briefly during public comment. The Chair is Jose Felix Diaz.
In summary, it is to clarify language so that funds do not include agency salaries, risk management costs, the purchase of vehicles, etc…and clearly states that “no less than one-third of doc-stamp revenue must be deposited into the Florida Forever Trust Fund.”
CRC - 2017P 46By Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch
1 A proposal to amend
2 Section 28 of Article X of the State Constitution to
3 revise the manner of the distribution of funds that
4 are deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund
5 from a portion of the net revenues derived from the
6 excise tax on documents.
8 Be It Proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission of
11 Section 28 of Article X of the State Constitution is
12 amended to read:
13 ARTICLE X
15 SECTION 28. Land Acquisition Trust Fund.—
16 (a) Effective on July 1 of the year following passage of
17 this amendment by the voters, and for a period of 20 years after
18 that effective date, the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall
19 receive no less than 33 percent of net revenues derived from the
20 existing excise tax on documents, as defined in the statutes in
21 effect on January 1, 2012, as amended from time to time, or any
22 successor or replacement tax, after the Department of Revenue
23 first deducts a service charge to pay the costs of the
24 collection and enforcement of the excise tax on documents.
25 (b) Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be
26 expended only for the following purposes:
27 (1) No less than one-third of the revenue must be deposited
28 into the Florida Forever Trust Fund, as defined by the statutes
29 in effect on January 1, 2017.
30 (2) The remainder must be expended as provided by law, to
31 finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land,
32 water areas, and related property interests, including
33 conservation easements, and natural resources for conservation
34 lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife
35 habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water
36 resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting
37 the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams,
38 springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and
39 aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and
40 the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II,
41 Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands,
42 including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space;
43 rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or
44 geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural
45 systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational
46 enjoyment of conservation lands.
47 (3)(2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to
48 Article VII, Section 11(e) as may be required.
49 (c) The moneys deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust
50 Fund, as defined by the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012,
51 shall not be or become commingled with the general revenue fund
52 of the state.
One thing’s for sure, if you don’t have small fish, you won’t have big fish. Being a little fish is actually the most important thing in world. A small fish is a “big fish” we could say, part of it anyway… As kids, we learn about the food chain and it makes perfect sense. All life is dependent upon another; everything is connected.
I have to say when Cameron Jaggerd contacted me, I had to look up “menhaden” in Wikipedia. I was not familiar with the name. When I saw this fish has many names such as shad, bunker, shiner, and pogy, I recognized it.
All those names, incredible! It is obviously an important fish to many regions, and to many people. In fact, I found an article in The American Naturalist entitled “A Study of the Popular Names of the Menhaden,” noting there are over 35 names!
Cameron invited me to attend today’s public hearing to support this important and underrated fish. I hope you can attend too. I myself have witnessed the beauty of terns catching the smallest of these fish, silver-sparkling, like metal against the sun. So beautiful! So important! An inspiration! We must protect these filter-feeding little-big guys, who clean our waters, and feed the world.
Below, Cameron gives great insight and teaches about the history and politics of tonight’s public hearing. His contact info is below.
My name is Cameron Jaggard and I work on public policy, specifically fisheries management, at The Pew Charitable Trusts. I am based in North Palm Beach and grew up on the southern stretch of the IRL. I am contacting you because there is an important public hearing scheduled for October 10 6pm at the Melbourne Beach Community Center that I thought you’d want to attend. This hearing, the only one in the South, will help decide the fate of “the most important fish in the sea,” also known as Atlantic menhaden or pogy.
With strong encouragement, the Commission could decide to leave hundreds of millions more menhaden in the ocean to grow abundance and provide for predators, such as tarpon, king mackerel, and osprey, or, without it, they could stick with the current single-species approach and likely take hundreds of millions more out of the ocean for fish meal, pet food, and other products. Issue 2.6 Reference Points – Option E of draft Amendment 3 is the option that gets us to this 21st century approach as soon as possible and as such, enjoys broad support from conservation groups (e.g. Audubon, Earthjustice, Wild Oceans, FWF), fishing organizations (e.g. IGFA, ASA, CCA, TRCP, Anglers for Conservation), and the best available science. As a matter of fact, Stony Brook is currently championing a PhD sign-on letter in support that currently has over 100 signers. This piece from Ed Killer last week gives a nice local take on what’s at stake http://www.tcpalm.com/story/sports/outdoors/fishing/2017/09/28/most-important-fish-sea-discussed-oct-10/711709001/
This hearing is a rare and important opportunity for you, your family, and friends to affect change that could have widespread, positive impacts for menhaden, their predators, and the people who depend on them. I heard the big commercial menhaden fishery had 150-200 folks turnout at hearings up north last week. This will be the only hearing in the South, vey important.
Also…I was trying to think of how you could best relate the story of menhaden to your readers. Some thought bubbles I came up with during this brainstorm are below. Seems there are some clear parallels between menhaden and the IRL. Specifically, that we want management of water and management of menhaden that benefits all, not just a select few businesses. Maybe these thoughts will provide some useful inspiration for your story or maybe not.
· Menhaden might not be well known outside of the fishing world, but their plight should be familiar to all those who have fought for the health of the Indian River Lagoon. Much as Florida’s water management has been shaped by Big Sugar, menhaden have been at the mercy of the commercial menhaden reduction fishery, which nets and vacuums menhaden out of the sea to be ground up and processed, like sugar cane, into ingredients for everything from cosmetics to pet food.
· This one-sided approach has produced very clear benefits for these special interests, while leaving everyone else who depends on healthy estuaries and plentiful menhaden in the lurch.
· Now, a proposed rulemaking, known as Amendment 3 to the…, could flip the tables and see to it that an important public trust resource is managed to the benefit of all.
o With your support, Amendment 3 could put much needed restraints on the commercial menhaden fishery to ensure we leave enough menhaden in the ocean to provide for the predators and people that depend on them from Florida to Maine.
· If you support this equitable approach to managing our precious natural resources, I encourage to attend the menhaden hearing today, October 10 6pm at the Town of Melbourne Beach Community Center and make sure to speak in favor of “Reference Points Option E.” Please also submit a written comment in support of “Reference Points Option E” to email@example.com with the subject “Draft Amd. 3” by October 24, 2017. For more information on Amendment 3 please visit http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/compass-points/2017/08/31/fate-of-most-important-fish-in-the-sea-hangs-on-commission-decision
(1) What’s happening?
The state officials that set rules for menhaden commercial fishing along the East Coast, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, will decide at a November 13 meeting in Baltimore how to move forward a new management model for this important fish. While fisheries managers throughout the country are starting to set catch limits for forage fish like menhaden in a way that leaves enough in the ocean for predators to eat, it will make history if menhaden are managed this way. That’s because menhaden is the biggest fishery by volume on the East Coast, and third in the country, after Alaska pollock and Gulf menhaden.
(3) Why do people here care?
Menhaden (also called bunker and pogy) are prey for many species that people care about. Recreational fishermen want to see plentiful menhaden in the water for tarpon, king mackerel, billfish and more to eat; same goes for birders looking for eagles and ospreys and whale-watching tourists and residents looking for humpbacks close to shore.
(4) Who can I talk to?
I can arrange a time for you to speak with Pew’s Joseph Gordon, who leads the Mid-Atlantic ocean conservation team and can give you the national context for this issue; here’s his latest Pew blog on menhaden. A member of Joseph’s team will be at each hearing and can help you find people to talk to there, so let me know if you’d like to be in touch with him.
(5) Are there any visuals?
Great visuals are out there on menhaden and their predators. In the last few summers, videos showing these species feasting on menhaden (see this shark video and this humpback video as examples) are popular.
(6) What’s interesting about menhaden?
Many people may not have heard of menhaden, because they don’t end up as seafood in this country. Commercial fishing for menhaden is mostly a “reduction” fishery that grinds them into pet food, fertilizer and fish oil; about a quarter of menhaden caught end up as bait for other fishermen to use. Despite menhaden being one of the country’s biggest fishery by volume, there were no catch limits at all until 2013. While the menhaden population seems to be growing, it is still at near-historic lows. It was much larger in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, before hitting lows in the 1990s and 2000s.
Principal Associate, U.S. Oceans, Southeast |
The Pew Charitable Trusts | c: 202-590-8954 |
e: firstname.lastname@example.org | pewtrusts.org
Shad, bunker, shiner, pogey, and no telling how many other names, are all describing the menhaden (Brevoortia patronus). They grow to approximately one foot and are very similar in appearance to the freshwater shad, but are not the same fish. Menhaden are extremely oily, which is why they have been commercially netted for so many years for the oil and meal that can be produced from them. They are many people’s “secret” bait for almost all species, using them alive, dead, or cut. They should be hooked just like all the other baits that I have written about so far — For trolling, hook them through the nose; for bottom fishing, through the nose or over the anal fin; and as cut bait, they should be cut diagonally and hooked over the top of the cut surface.
Menhaden are plankton filter feeders and can only be caught with a cast net since they won’t bite a hook. Sometimes when you see bait “striking” or rolling on the surface, it is a school of menhaden making surface slurps of minute surface food items. We used to be able to spot menhaden inside Tampa Bay in the summer time by the oil slick that will form over a large school. They also have a very distinctive smell if you are downwind of them. They are a very fast moving fish, and usually by the time you see them on your fish finder, they have moved far enough away from the boat so that you cannot net them. We try blind throws of the cast net in the area where we can see them flipping on the surface; this usually will produce bait. Menhaden are also very intolerant of low dissolved oxygen and will die quickly in a poorly aerated live well. Still, they are five star on my list of baits.
Just as a note, if you have never seen live menhaden, many of them have a small critter that comes crawling out of their mouths when they die. This is quite a surprise the first time you see it. It appears to be some sort of shrimp or crab that looks like a mantis shrimp and must live inside the mouth or gill area without hurting the menhaden. I don’t remember seeing this written about in any of the fish books, but surely some biologist somewhere has seen this.
The population increase of the Goliath Grouper is one of those rare “feel-good” conservation success stories. With the help of a 1990 law of protection, the species has come back from being historically over-hunted.
I was recently contacted by advocate goliath grouper protectionist, Ms. Katie Carlsson, who spurned my interest in the debate to “reopen hunting on the species.” I also knew I could share my mother’s plethora of historic St Lucie River “Jew Fish” photos labeled such during the non-politically correct era that was part of my childhood and before. In today’s blog post the original terminology is used in the photographs as documented.
Now for today’s “Goliath Grouper!”
I wanted to speak up for Katie’s cause, questioning the reopening of the hunt. She has forward much information on FWC meeting dates, etc. Thank you Katie.
Before presenting you with many links to explore and opinions to read, I will say, that according to the Snook Foundation, “vast technological improvements in spear guns and diving equipment in the 1960s and 1970s made no wreck, cave or hole safe for Goliath grouper to hide. They have few natural predators and little fear of divers.They are easy prey.”
Of course anglers have the right to argue that the grouper in some areas, like South Florida, have been perhaps “too successful” and believe hunting should be reopened.
My question is if the giant fish will basically look you in the eye and let you kill it, or if there is a question as to the efficacy of the conservation program, why do it? There are so many other fish in the sea.
These are the locations and dates for future hearings:
Oct. 9: Jacksonville, Pablo Creek Regional Library, 13295 Beach Blvd.
Oct. 10: Titusville, American Police Hall of Fame & Museum, 6350 Horizon Drive.
Oct. 11: Stuart, Flagler Place, 201 SW Flagler Ave.
Oct. 12: Davie, Old Davie School Historical Museum, 6650 Griffin Road.
Oct. 16: Pinellas Park, Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure, 9501 U.S. Highway 19 N.
Oct. 17: Port Charlotte, The Cultural Center of Charlotte County, 2280 Aaron St.
Oct. 18: Naples, Collier County Public Library – South Regional, 8065 Lely Cultural Parkway
Oct. 25: Tallahassee, FWC Bryant Building, Room 272, 600 S. Meridian St. (6-9 p.m. ET)
In the earlier part of the last century, Atlantic goliath groupers were abundant from Florida to Brazil and throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. If you have been lucky enough to be in the water with these creatures, then you appreciate their unflappable personality and awe-inspiring size, which reaches up to 8 feet and 1,000 pounds. The goliath grouper has no natural predators besides large sharks and humans. We are writing with regards to the latter.
Goliath groupers reached commercial extinction in the late 1980s. For this reason, in 1990 a federal and state ban on killing them was implemented for U.S. federal waters and state waters of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, followed by a 1993 ban in the U.S. Caribbean. Twenty-seven years of protection have led to a population increase, although not a recovery to pre-exploitation levels, in the state of Florida alone. Spawning aggregations are forming again off the east coast of Florida. It’s the only place in the world where goliath groupers are now reliably found in significant numbers, as juveniles in mangroves, and as adults in reefs, solitary or forming spawning aggregations. People come from all over the nation and the world to see the goliath grouper spawning aggregations in the late summer, bringing big dollars that boost local economies.
“Diving in the Palm Beaches back in the late 1980s, to see a goliath grouper was the holy grail. Many of us dove year after year, and saw perhaps one, maybe none,” said Deb Castellana of Mission Blue. “To witness the resurgence of the species since protections were enacted has been heartening, a real story of hope.”
Yet, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is currently considering allowing the limited take of goliath groupers in state waters. The proposal would allow the killing of 100 goliath groupers per year for 4 years, for a total of 400 goliath groupers. The sizes targeted are breeding individuals. If implemented, the kill will exterminate most of Florida’s breeding population of goliath groupers, destroying 27 years of conservation management effort. This “limited take” is not supported by scientific evidence. Critics of the goliath grouper say the species is overeating and responsible for declining fish and lobster stocks. Yet, actual scientific data from researchers like Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D. show that overfishing, not the goliath groupers, is the reason for declining fish and lobster stocks.
Some say that a “sustainable” take of goliath groupers is possible, but many scientists agree that the current population would not last more than one, or perhaps two years after opening the fishery. And groupers have no nutritional value for humans since they contain levels of mercury that are unsafe for human consumption according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Health.
“I repeatedly asked what scientific evidence the FWC has to support killing the goliath groupers, because all scientific research published to date does not support a fishery for this species and shows the species is highly conservation dependent and highly vulnerable to overfishing,” said Dr. Frias-Torres. “Many don’t realize that goliath groupers actually eat predators of juvenile lobsters, allowing more lobsters to grow to legal size and making more lobsters available to fishers.”
Don DeMaria, a local professional diver, adds, “the annual goliath grouper spawning aggregations that occur off the coast of South Florida are spectacular natural events on a world scale. Efforts by the FWC, and others, to reopen a take of this fish are sure to disrupt, and eventually eliminate this natural wonder.”
If a hunting season is opened on the goliath grouper, the FWC has floated the idea of charging $300 per fish killed. Yet, recreational divers pay around $100 for one goliath grouper sighting. Think of that: a single goliath grouper in the water is supporting local business to the tune of $36,500 per year or more than a million dollars over its lifetime. But one spawning aggregation alone, made by several goliath groupers, generates about half a million dollars a year for one dive business. Financially speaking, that’s a much better investment than collecting a one-time payment of $300 per dead fish.
“Killing goliath groupers will also kill growing economic benefits derived from divers who revel in the opportunity to be in the presence of these iconic animals who are often as curious about us.” – Dr. Sylvia Earle
A Final Message from Katie:
We are aware that the FWC is gathering public input on the possibility of a goliath grouper killing season in Florida. As such, we have called for our supporters to attend one of the many workshops held in the state in August and October, as well as to submit a public comment on FWC’s website. We will also gathering signatures to a petition, which will be delivered to the FWC in anticipation of the goliath grouper decision coming down later this year.
“Although the species has not recovered to pre-exploitation levels, enough goliath groupers are showing up at a few spawning aggregation sites that their presence, and the SCUBA divers that come to visit them, bring a much-needed lifesaver to small businesses in Florida, between late August and early October, just when transition between the summer and winter seasons will leave these businesses in the doldrums,” said Dr. Frias-Torres. “A live goliath grouper is more valuable than a dead one. And living goliaths will keep forming spawning aggregations and contributing to the Florida economy for as long as they live.”
We strongly urge the Commissioners of FWC to maintain protections for goliath groupers in Florida and to deny any requests for opening the fishery. A policy such as this would represent the best interests of the wildlife and humans in Florida, as well as rest on conclusions drawn from the best available science.
HELP US: Ask the FWC to maintain protections for goliath groupers!
You don’t have to live in Florida to help. Please take a moment to tell the FWC to continue protections for the goliaths at this link. Feel free to use the language below as your comment.
“I am disappointed to learn the FWC is considering allowing the taking of goliath groupers. Many countries look up to the United States as a leader in so many fields, including conservation, and here we are about to permit fishermen to take goliaths—a species depleted throughout its range, except Florida—and nursed back to healthy numbers over the course of 27 years of Federal and state protection. We strongly urge you to maintain protections for goliath groupers in Florida and to deny any requests for opening the fishery. A policy such as this would represent the best interests of the wildlife and humans in Florida, as well as rest on conclusions drawn from the best available science.”
I know this is a lot. This is a pretty interesting problem from science, conservation, and politics. The voting in the hearings is by clicker and is shown on the screen so have everyone who goes take a picture and post it. People that are under eighteen can attend and vote. They can also comment online at the FFW link.
It is amazing to realize how much of the Florida Constitution ensures protections of the environment, and yet we see the continued degradation of the natural resources of our state. It’s time we learn our constitution by heart, make sure it’s followed, and take action to see if something need be added.
Today, I am going to list the areas of the constitution that have to do with the environment for easy reference. You can click the links below to see the full amendments.
In 1968, “ardent environmentalist” and respected state representative, John Robert Middlemas, of Panama City, insisted that words of support for environmental policy were placed in the historic constitutional revision that same year.
In his honor, I ask that all fellow environmentalists review below, and ask oneself how to make these words take on a new sense of urgency as our springs, rivers, and natural lands need our voice. At the end of this article, and after reviewing our state constitution, if so inspired, please feel free to enter your own constitutional proposal or improve one that’s simply being ignored.
The CRC is considering September 22nd as the deadline for public proposals so please submit soon!
As an aside, it is my honor to serve as the Chair of the CRC’s General Provisions Committee, which is charged with examining Article II of the Florida Constitution. If you have comments or thoughts regarding Article II (or other provisions relating to the environment), please email me at Jacqui.Lippisch@flcrc.gov.
Here is the list of current environmental provisions in the Florida Constitution:
General Provisions (Article II): Section 7, Natural Resources & Scenic Beauty/Everglades Agricultural Area
Miscellaneous (Article X): Section 11, sovereignty lands; Section 16, limiting marine net fishing; Section 17, Everglades Trust Fund; Section 18, disposition of conservation lands; Section 28, Land Acquisition Trust Fund, (Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, 2014.)
To enter your own proposal or idea regarding the environment:
Go to gov/Proposals/Submit to create a free account and submit your proposed change to the Florida constitution. The online tool allows you to create your proposal using legal language by redacting or adding language. Remember to keep it simple and clear.
Using the same program, submit your proposal to the Constitution Revision Commission and sign up for the alert emails. Commissioners will review proposals and determine which proposals should be placed on Florida’s 2018 General Election ballot.
*Proposals can also be emailed to the commission at email@example.com, or sent in the mail to: Constitution Revision Commission, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399. Thank you so much for conserving and protecting the great state of Florida!
Like hard resin, stories of long-leaf pine and towering Florida forests are in me. Since my earliest days, I remember visiting my mother’s family and hearing tales around the dinner table:
“In the 1930s your Granddady and Uncle Gordy dove down to the bottom of the Withlacoochee River, chained those sunken water-logged giant trees, pulled them out with mules, put them on a train to Gainesville, milled them, and built this house by hand. Virgin long-leaf pine that had been on the bottom of that river for 90 years became our home. This house is history.”
At the time, the stories were just part of a lifestyle I did not lead living “down” in Stuart, Florida with the Yankees. In Gainesville we ate boiled peanuts, okra, gigantic breakfasts of bacon, eggs, toast, and homemade jelly. In Stuart, I ate Lucky Charms.
Now that I am becoming an old-pine myself, the story of the long-lost, long-leaf pine is more interesting to me. And “lo and behold,” although public records show the famous long-leaf forest stopping just north of Lake Okeechobee, recently my mother and I learned that they were, indeed, further south, right here in what today is Martin County!
This observation is based on a 1st hand account of 1910 by J.H. Vaughn in an Abstract of Title for Indiantown, Florida, No. 12386.
In the early days of our country, long-leaf pine forests covered approximately 90 million acres and stretched across the entire southeastern United States. These trees are documented to have stood from 80 to 175 feet tall and many were up to 400 years in age. Of course multiple animals were dependent on the forest for shelter and food and there were massive benefits to the watersheds. The cleanest waters in the world run off of forests. These amazing trees evolved to completely withstand forest fires, actually thriving in such conditions. Imagine if you would these remarkable trees of our Creator, cut to the ground with the same state of mind as today when mowing one’s lawn….By the 1920s only 3% of the forests remained.
So where were these trees in Martin County? Where do we fit into the incredible history of these magnificent conifers? J. H. Vaughn, a lumber man of the 1800s, negotiating a sale states in the abstract of title below:
“…there is an average of 2000 feet of Long Leaf Yellow Virgin pine per acre.. being on the eastern side of Lake Okeechobee…”.
(The Townships and Ranges listed are today’s Indiantown.)
I think it is incredible that we are part of the long-leaf pine odyssey. As today, the Nature Conservancy and people like M.C. Davies have dedicated their fortunes and lives to bringing back this magnificent species and the animal life that comes along with it. The situation is a lot like St Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee restoration. It’s a generational goal done so that our stories and our lives are remembered, and not “long-lost.”
“Eden,” the name says it all. Wouldn’t it be cool to say you lived in Eden?
Today there is a historic sign, but there is no longer a town. In 1879 “Eden” was named by Captain Thomas E. Richards who decided this spot along the high ridge of the Indian River would be a good place to grow pineapples. According to historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, “Richards felt he had arrived in a tropical paradise, and named his new home Eden.”
In Sandra’s book, “Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River,” she talks about how today’s Jensen Beach evolved from both the historic communities of Eden and Jensen, but over time, while Jensen had room to grow, Eden faded, as it was hemmed in by the wet, fragile ecosystem of the savannas. This marshy savannas system once stretched along the lagoon for over a hundred miles, but today, the only remnant lies right behind the lost town of Eden, and to the north and south of close-by extending lands.
These rare lands known today as Savannas Preserve State Park, “encompass more than 5,400 acres and stretch more the ten miles from Jensen Beach to Ft Pierce containing the largest, most ecologically intact stretch of freshwater marsh in southeast Florida.” Remarkable!
If you haven’t ever seen it, I can promise, “Eden awaits you…”
This past weekend, my husband Ed and I put on our wet weather gear, and walked from Jensen Beach Blvd to “west of Eden. ” It is amazing to have this treasure right in our own backyards, a study in plant and animal life that “used to be.” ~A study in what we can bring back, if we want to…
If we look into the mirror of history, we begin to see…
We begin to see how we destroyed one of the most famous and beloved inland fishing waters in North America and how we learned to do better. And if we are able, in time, not only to do better, but to return “health and glory” to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, it should be the tarpon, not the sailfish, that becomes our symbol, our king.
The first formal fishing club documented in Stuart was the 1916 St Lucie River Tarpon Club. The late 1800s and early 1900s were an era of great fame for the St Lucie River, build upon President Grover Cleveland and other presidents fishing trips to the area. Yes, the St Lucie was known as the “Fishing Grounds of Presidents.”
Ironically, at this same time, the Commercial Club, that evolved into today’s Chamber of Commerce, was promoting not just Stuart’s remarkable fishing, but also enthusiastically encouraging and awaiting the completion of the St Lucie Canal.
“Once the muddy water flowed into the St Lucie River, they began to realize that the canal was not the blessing they envisioned,” writes Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Historian Alice Luckhardt more directly notes, “at one time tarpon were often caught in the St. Lucie River, but “disappeared” from those waters soon after the opening of the canal system to Lake Okeechobee in 1923.”
Ingeniously, and with more insight, in the years following the loss of tarpon and other river fish as seen in the McCoy map above, the ocean-going sailfish was marketed to replace the tarpon and become “the most prized fish of all…” as well as in time the symbol for both the city and county governments.
The magnificent Silver King? Just a dying memory, or no memory at all…
By the mid 1930s the Chamber of Commerce began publishing the “Stuart Fishing Guide.” In 1941 the largest sailfish run in Florida’s history occurred off the St Lucie Inlet. Remarkable! More than 5000 sailfish were caught in a 90 day period. “Thousands were slaughtered only to be dumped in the river, carted off by garbage collectors, and used for shark bait.” Stuart as the Sailfish Capital of the world was affirmed, but as my mother states, if “Stuart’s fame was to endure, so was the need for conservation of the species.”
The idea for conservation/protecting the industry had been in the works, the Sailfish Club had been talking about it and a few sailfish were returned to the ocean…. But after the sailfish run of “41, the idea of an organized conservation effort was solidified, and Sailfish Club of ’31 updated their charter in “41 “to further and promote sports fishing and conservation in the waters of the City of Stuart and Martin County.” Visiting sportsmen were awarded and inspired to work for the most coveted bronze, silver, and gold lapel pins based on the size of the sail they caught and released, not killed.
This is a great story, but what of the tarpon?
I can see his giant, ancient, dorsal fin rising from the waters of a healthier St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For me, no fish will ever compare. As we restore our rivers, it is he who shall be KING! 🙂
My mother tells me that when I was a baby she nursed me in Muir Woods, California. My father was in the United States Air Force, and the family was living in the area at the time. It was 1964. She has joked, my entire life, that this perhaps is the reason I have always been so adamant about protecting the environment and its creatures.
John Muir was part of America’s early conservation movement. He wrote a collection of stories for “Century Magazine” entitled “Studies in the Sierra.” In 1892 Muir joined the magazine’s editor in creating the Sierra Club, an organization with the mission to protect America’s resources and public parks.
There were others who are also famous in the “conservation movement” of that era such as President Theodore Roosevelt. He is most famous for the establishment of many National Parks; Pelican Island, along the Indian River Lagoon in Sebastian, established in 1903, was actually our nation’s first “national wildlife refuge.” (http://firstrefuge.org)
President Roosevelt said: “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others.”
As the conservation movement moved forward it is said to have split into two modes of thought. The first was to conserve resources for the future and for their use by humans and the second was more to preserve nature for wilderness preservation.
In any case, the foundation of America’s “conservation” movement was established during this period from approximately 1850 thorough 1920. This movement was bubbling up in Florida as well.
In 1900 Louis F. Dommerich and his wife Clara hosted a gathering of neighbors in Maitland, Florida, just north of Orlando. On this fateful night the group decided to align themselves with other chapters the existing Audubon Society forming Florida Audubon.
In 1900, not only was Florida’s bird population being decimated, by the plume trade and the rage for feathers on ladies hats, the southern part of the state, almost entirely wetland, was being drained for agriculture and development.
This drainage focused around Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River cutting off waters to the Everglades which for thousands of years had formed one of the world’s most important and productive wet lands for birds, fish and hundreds of other species. We, living along the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, are part of this story.
–You reading this today as people who care about the conservation of our area are the grandchildren of that those 15 people who met in Maitland Florida in 1900…
And for conservationists today, water issues are at the top of this list. Although Florida seems to be full of water, it is not. It is along side with California and other western states in its struggle to conserve and preserve water and its life.
1.7 billion gallons of water is wasted on average to tide each day through the canals draining Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River. With only 3% of the water on the planet being “fresh” and an exponentially growing population, this is wasteful beyond comprehension. Right now, just south of Orlando, the Central Florida Water Initiative, a conglomeration of three state water districts, is organizing because this area of the state has maximized its water use. They need more.
This is no knee jerk reaction and wise water use is completely linked to the success or failure of Florida’s future. Unless we can learn to conserve, preserve and perhaps most important, educate the children of the future there will not be enough clean water for people and for the wildlife that has a right to these resources as well.
I vividly remember my father going fishing for sailfish with his buddies in the 1960s and 70s; my brother has taught his three girls to “reel them in…”
Me? I have never caught a sailfish; I am not a hunter either. Nonetheless, I recognize that fishermen and women, and hunters are some of the strongest conservationist in the United States and around the world. People protect what they love…
I started thinking about sailfish recently because Jamie Burns asked me if I would be a “judge” for a boat theme contest taking place October 24-25 for the “Salt Water Sisters” Lady Angler Tournament.
I was honored to be included and started reading about the organization which is an arm of the famous “Stuart Sailfish Club” that formed in Martin County informally in the 1930s, and later formally in 1941. This organization set the bar on conservation in our area.
According to my mother, Sandra Thurlow’s book, Stuart on the St Lucie:
“Immediately after the club’s incorporation, Ernie Lyons announced the next immediate goal was the creation of a release button to be given to individuals who consistently released their sailfish….in 1941 records show that a record, over 5000 sailfish, were caught in a 90 day period, January through March 1941. Many sportsmen let their sailfish go but thousands were slaughtered only to be dumped into the river, carted off by garbage collectors, or used for shark bait.
Because of the efforts of the Stuart Sailfish Club, anglers soon began to compete for Curt Whiticar’s beautifully designed release button in preference to all the rest.”
I think this is an amazing and inspirational story!
As a St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon side note, I hear a lot of things about the Indian River Lagoon and someone once told me the sailfish spawn right off the St Lucie Inlet. In our area the fish can spawn a good portion of the year but mostly in the warmer summer months, therefore, polluted releases from our canals and Lake Okeechobee have an effect on the sailfish population in our area. Just one more reason to stop them!
In closing, I would like to wish all of the participants of the Salt Water Sisters Lady Angler Tournament “good luck” this weekend. Wear your “catch and release” button with pride in the memory of those who came before us and had the foresight to protect the beautiful creatures of the ocean and our way of life.
Some things never change, like the wonder of a kid catching his or her “first fish.”
I still remember mine. A puffer fish! It was 1968, and my parents took me fishing along the Indian River Lagoon…
Fishing is a powerful experience for a young person. There is no better way to teach youth how to appreciate and protect the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon than by “taking a kid fishing.” It is well documented that hunters and fishermen/women are some of our county’s most outspoken and powerful conservationists.
In keeping with this Treasure Coast fishing legacy, on October 18th, 2014, something really remarkable is happening. Kids in our area have organized a fishing tournament for kids! The event is called “Lines in the Lagoon.” (http://www.linesinthelagoon.com/#!about/mainPage)
Vero Beach freshman high school student, Quinn Hiaasen and his friends organized the event. Quinn is obviously on his way to “stardom” himself, but it must be mentioned that his father is none other than satirist and writer Carl Hiassen, (http://www.carlhiaasen.com/bio.shtml), a well-known proponent of our rivers and Everglades. Quinn’s mother, Fenia, has also been working for the event and assisting her son for months– “spreading the word” and communicating with River Kidz momz here in Martin and St Lucie Counties. Martin, St Lucie, and Indian River counties are one, as the lagoon knows no county lines or political districts; it is a Tri-county tournament.
Early on, Mrs Hiaasen let us know that pre-fishing/fishing tournament events included:
September 6th: LAGOON CLEAN UP DAY
October 27th: INDIAN RIVER SCIENCE FAIR DAY
October 1st: CHIPOTLE IN STORE PROMOTIONS 3-7pm 50% DONATION TO ORCA AND EVERGLADES FOUNDATION
October 18th: FISHING TOURNAMENT AND AWARDS BANQUET AT THE BACKUS MUSEUM IN FT PIERCE
From what I am told by River Kidz mom, Nicole Mader, the group is also working on displaying a “responsible fishing tent” to teach children care with fishing line and hooks, as careless discarding of such is a serious threat to wildlife and of course the tournament is primarily “catch and release.”
Isn’t this a great thing?
So sign up…
Support the kids; support conservation; and support the Hiaasen family!
And remember, by taking a kid fishing, you are creating future advocates for our Indian River Lagoon.
Every day, I look to nature for inspiration, hoping for a model of success to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
One of the “greats” is the little snowy egret. All wading birds were almost hunted to the point of extinction during the feathered ladies hat craze of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and because the snowy egret was the most desired of all birds for its beautiful nuptial plumes, it, more than any other wading bird, was hunted.
There was great motivation to hunt birds as at the time, their feathers were worth more than gold.
It is well documented that the plume hunters shot birds by the thousands in rookeries through out Florida, especially the Everglades, during breeding season when the birds’ feathers were most beautiful. The birds were shot right off their nests with the baby birds left to die. Entire rookeries disappeared.
After witnessing such, many hunters reported feeling sick at the “sight of thousands of little hanging necks over the nests” and “repented,” refusing to go back after being part of such cold blooded carnage.
But times were tough and there were alway more men behind them to take their place. In the late 1890s the Ornithologists’ Union estimated that five million birds of all kinds were killed annually.
The story of what birds remain and have rebounded is yet another story of American inspiration though everyday people demanding more of their government.
In 1886, Forest and Stream editor, George Bird Grinnell, was “appalled by the negligent mass slaughter of birds.” Based on studies of painter John James Audubon from Ornithological Biography, he created an organization devoted to the protection of wild birds and their eggs. Within a year the the Audubon Society had over 39,000 members including very prominent figures of the day and eventually a US president. Their numbers and financial support grew and the organization evolved throughout many states. Letter writing campaigns ensured, many from churches, state laws were passed starting in New York, banning the sale of plumes, and by 1920 similar laws were passed in other states. In 1918 US Audubon lobbied for the Federal “Migratory Bird Treaty Act” and convinced the US government to support the National Wildlife Refuge system, the first being Sebastian, Florida’s “Pelican Island.” Today migrating and resident birds are protected, or at minimum, regulated, by hunting license in all communities.
So again, the stories are many of mankind’s propensity to kill the world around “him,” and then to pull back from the brink of total destruction by the intervention of a small group of people.
The story of the Indian River Lagoon will hopefully be a similar tale to tell. So when you are around town and see a little snowy egret, feel inspired!
Bird Island is one of the most productive breeding grounds for more than 15 species of birds and a rookery/visiting grounds to even more species. The island is owned by the state of Florida and managed by Martin County. It is located 400 feet from the Town of Sewall’s Point. (Most photos by Greg Braun, Sustainable Ecosystems International, story below.)
Just over three years ago, I was going through I guess a kind of mid-life crisis where I really was questioning what I was doing with my life. When I couldn’t seem to get it together, I decided to spend some time going back to “my roots,” to the things that made me happy as a kid. I called up family friend Nancy Beaver of Sunshine Wildlife Tours in Port Salerno, and asked her if I could volunteer on her boat a couple of times a week. She obliged, and slowly, I felt my passion for life return while being surrounded by the animals and birds in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The highlight of every tour was “Bird Island,” located off my “very own” Sewall’s Point, as I was mayor of the town at the time.
I had seen the birds from far away, but to see the beautifully colored birds, especially their babies, through binoculars up close was incredible.
Bird Island, located in the Indian River Lagoon, just 400 feet off of the Sewall’s Point’s Archipelago is one of the most valuable nesting bird habitats along Florida’s east coast, really in all of Florida. Rarely are so many different kinds of birds in one location, breeding…
A wonder of nature, birds of all kinds fill the island, over 40 types visiting or roosting and at least 15 species of birds simultaneouly raising young. At any time of late fall through spring hundreds of birds sometimes over a thousand, some say more, fill the island.
Greg Braun, of Sustainable Ecosystems International, was hired by Martin County for avian monitoring September 2011 thorough August 2012 and he documented observing 240 pairs of birds of 15 species nesting including the Wood Stork; Brown Pelican; Double-crested Cormorant; Great Egret; Cattle Egret; Anhinga; Tri-colored Heron; Snowy Egret; Great Blue Heron; Litle Blue Heron; Black-crowned Night Heron; Great White Heron; Roseate Spoonbill; Black Vulture; Oystercatcher; and suspected White Ibis and a couple of invasive Egyptian Geese.
So why this island? There are plenty of others to choose from in the area. Maybe it is for protection? Maybe its the eastern sandbar that keeps boaters at bay and gives the chicks a place to practice swimming and flying and the older birds can just hang out? Maybe its the nearby western seagrasses with its rich production of fish.
Nobody really knows but obviously the birds like it. Originally Bird Island, more scientifically known as “MC-2” was created in the 1940s as a by-product of dredging the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, (Braun, Avian Monitoring). My mother, historian, Sandra Thurlow, says there are verbal accounts of birds nesting on the island since the 60s and 70s, but again nobody is really sure when it began…
Man’s involvement remains controversial with the removal of tall Australian Pines a few years back that the amazing Frigate Birds sat on, and then the building of a $600,000, 400 foot long rip-rap on the island’s northern side by Martin County to offset documented erosion. Now in the process is the Florida Wildlife Commission’s (FWC) possible creation of a CWA or Critical Wildlife Area so that trespassing onto or very near the island would be a crime.
Personally, I think the bird’s habitat should be very protected as the importance of the island is obvious and it is a rare thing. As far as the CRA status, the County is working through issues with local fishermen who use the area for bait catching, and other users of the area surrounding the island. I do hope some higher level of protection can be met.
Right now, signs surround the island in hopes of giving the birds the privacy they need to raise their chicks, but curious kayakers and others often go very close flushing the birds off their nest, with masses of crows waiting close by, putting the chicks at risk. Sun exposure can also kill the young chicks. People don’t mean to but they often do disturb the island.
Another common problem is fishing line. Nancy Beaver and the FWC when in the area often see birds entangled in monofilament caught in the mangroves. Many birds are taken to the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center and saved; but many more are euthanized due to emaciation.
Bird Island was definitely affected by last year’s putrid release water from Lake Okeechobee and the other canals as is visible in an aerial photograph included in this blog. During the releases, 85 percent of seagrasses died last summer according to Florida Oceanographic Society. The bird’s feeding was/is certainly affected by such loss.
In the end, I do believe everyone agrees that Bird Island is an amazing place. Let’s get along like the many birds do and protect it! And if you have not seen it, maybe put it on your list of things to do!