Thursday, January 18, 2018
Gulf Shores Activity Center
260 Clubhouse Drive
Alabama Marine Resources Program
Little Lagoon Preservation Society (LLPS) members and the public are invited to attend a quarterly meeting. Craig Newton, Biologist with Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources / Marine Resources Division, will update our members and guests on their assessment of shrimp, fish, and crab populations and trends in Little Lagoon. Craig earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2002 and Master of Science in Marine Sciences from the University of South Alabama in 2006. He is the coordinator for Marine Resources Division’s Fishery-independent Monitoring Program (FAMP), invasive species, shrimp fishery, and artificial reef program.
During the past several years, anglers have reported lower catches of popular species such as blue crab and flounder compared to prior years in Little Lagoon. Anglers have attributed the lower catches to everything from poor maintenance of Lagoon Pass, overfishing, and a weir between Lake Shelby and Little Lagoon. Fishery-independent and fishery-dependent data collected in Little Lagoon by the Alabama Marine Resources Division were analyzed to evaluate trends in Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE), distribution of sizes, and patterns in abundance. Review of the data indicates a steady reduction in blue crab abundance beginning in the late 1980s and a reduction in the CPUE of flounder. Numerous factors are likely attributed to the observed declines, but identifying the most significant source of the declining fisheries is problematic.
LLPS will meet on Thursday, January 18, 2018 5:30 p.m., at the Gulf Shores Activity Center. The first half hour of the meeting provides an opportunity to meet, mingle and enjoy refreshments. The program begins at 6, and will include a question-and-answer period.
Little Lagoon Pass Update
In early October, Hurricane Nate made landfall in Mississippi and we got a Category 1 hurricane with winds up to 85 mph and a 3-5-foot storm surge here in Gulf Shores. Little Lagoon got around 3 feet of tidal surge. A large volume of sand was pushed up into the pass resulting in a trigger being issued on November 9, 2017. Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) started dredging shortly after but made little progress due to two dredge mechanical failures which took some time to repair. Part of the sediment trap north of the bridge has been dredged (1 dredge width around 30-40 yards long) and progress has been very disappointing to date.
After Dr. Brett Webb's talk with LLPS in October, it was communicated with Dr. Webb and Don Powell of ALDOT about how unsatisfactory their talk was with the “no solution” answer. "The pass may take years to equilibrate" is not an acceptable answer and they should continue to model solutions to the current ineffective configuration. They have also been encouraged to vary jetty lengths with the Single Updrift Jetty configuration as their modeling of a 160-foot jetty indicated a 15% reduction in shoaling at the pass mouth with only a 3% reduction in Long Shore Transport. This could be an economical solution.
Some possible help with this problem could come from Mayor Craft's involvement. Attendance at the Gulf Shores City Council meeting to document the contractor’s poor performance might encourage the Mayor to pressure ALDOT for resolution. The hope would be to persuade Mayor Craft to take a greater interest in and ownership of the situation and be more proactive on dredging results and Little Lagoon Pass configuration.
Another avenue on the unsatisfactory dredging is to examine the contract for a termination clause due to non-performance – once again pressure ALDOT for resolution.
Oyster Gardening Is a Winner!
Oyster Gardening was a huge success in 2017 and the LLPS plans on continuing with this very popular and successful project. On November 7th all oysters from the 2017 oyster gardening effort were picked up by PJ and assistant Emma, Ron, and Dennis. The oysters were transferred the next day to closed reefs in the Southeastern part of Mobile Bay. Little Lagoon oysters helped populate 1.26 acres of reef in the Bay. Statistical estimates of oyster size and quantity were made, and the results are:
· 23 of the 25 sites successfully produced oysters in the 2017 season (92%). Total number of oysters from Little Lagoon: 25,228. Wow, that’s a lot of oysters!
· Average number of oysters from producing sites: 1,097 per site.
· Average number of oysters from all sites: 1,009 oysters per site.
· Average height of produced oysters: 42.9mm (~1.7 inches).
For the 2018 season, the goal is 50 gardeners. 22 gardeners from 2017 have rolled over commitment to garden in 2018. LLPS will be contacting others from 2017 for a commitment in 2018. Our 2018 goal is 50 gardens. Anyone interested in establishing an oyster garden for 2018, please contact Dennis Hatfield at [email protected] or 251-942-2233. Please help us recruit with your friends and neighbors!
LLPS continues to explore options to expand this program to make a meaningful impact on Little Lagoon. One viable option is to establish an “adopt an oyster garden” program for interested supporters that cannot have an oyster garden. Either they do not live on Little Lagoon, or do not have a dock to support the oyster cages, but would like to contribute to the effort. Sponsorship levels could be: One oyster cage $25, two oyster cages $50, three oyster cages $75. More work still to be done on this concept.
One idea for program support is to get corporate/business sponsors, like the Oyster House to support an oyster garden at the restaurant dock - educate and inform customers. Another option would be an information/education stop at an oyster garden on an “Eco tour.” Both ideas require further exploration by LLPS. It’s all about educating the public on the benefits to Little Lagoon and the environment from the establishment of oyster gardens.
For further education, an informational workshop will be scheduled soon to discuss oyster gardening principles, benefits, and techniques for all potential oyster gardeners. Standby for further information.
More on Oyster Gardening: A recent article by Ben Raines on AL.com http://www.al.com/news/mobile/index.ssf/2017/12/saving_mobile_bay.html explores efforts in Mobile Bay with “oyster gardens” to restore the natural balance in the Bay and reestablish natural reefs. Little Lagoon oyster gardens are the miniature version of the Mobile Bay effort. A request will go out to Ben Raines about writing an article for publication on the LL Oyster gardening project with emphasis on habitat and filtering benefits.
Committee Activity Updates
· Ongoing efforts include Chan presentation of “Little Lagoon, yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” to a “snowbird” gathering on February 26, 2018.
· Ron has contacted Gulf Shores High School Science instructor to work on collaboration of efforts. They are interested in oyster gardening and water quality work.
· Outreach is also another avenue for “adopt an oyster garden” concept.
· Marine Resources Division (MRD) and LLPS recruited volunteers to catch flounder at Little Lagoon Pass on Thursday October 19, 2017 for restocking efforts by MRD. Zero flounder were caught. Continued to watch for the migration to happen on subsequent days but did not return for another try. Maybe the migration was missed or there were few migrating flounders. Not sure if Hurricane Nate may have impacted the migration. Expecting an update from MRD on the program.
· Ross Coburn-University of South Alabama MS candidate has been conducting well level and piezometer readings at several sites in and around Little Lagoon as part of an ongoing research project to refine fresh water aquifer inputs into Little Lagoon. Currently on hold for the winter months but will start up again in the Spring.
· City of Gulf Shores "Mega Project" has made the first cut in oil spill fine money funded project selection and was highly ranked. Project includes: Septic Tank conversion, oyster gardening on steroids, fisheries assessment, shoreline restoration, sea grass restoration, and canal clean-up. The Lagoon Watershed management plan was not funded by end of 2017, but is high in the queue for funding.
· Ongoing, always looking for help. See Dennis Hatfield.
· Delinquent members are being given 2 years to renew their membership before converting them to “inactive.”
October 1 thru December 31, 2017
Notable Expense was the purchase of a new Probe: $2962.90
The LLPS Board nominated Harry King for membership on the Board. Voting by the membership will take place at our quarterly meeting on January 18, 2018
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