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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010 7 years ago

Stakeholders learn about the state of Sarasota Bay

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

The state of Sarasota Bay: strong — and getting even stronger.

That was the message at the first Sarasota Bay Watch stakeholders meeting, held Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Mote Marine Laboratory. The featured program was “Our Living Shoreline.”

Mark Alderson, executive director of Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, opened the discussion and said that nitrogen is a principal concern in Sarasota Bay. Seagrass growth is considered the most important indicator of clean water. Since 1988, Sarasota Bay has had a 46% increase in seagrasses.

Alderson discussed the importance of putting in artificial reefs, which can promote marine life, and two, successful oyster-reef pilot programs that have helped to reintroduce oysters to the bay.

Sandy Gilbert, director of Sarasota Bay Watch and discussion moderator, talked about Sarasota Bay’s progress.

“This is one of the few estuaries that’s improved and yet we’ve had more development,” he said.

Rusty Chinnis, director and founder of Sarasota Bay Watch, gave a presentation about the history of the organization. The group began as a fisheries committee for Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START) and was formed to explore ways of getting people more involved with the bay between red-tide blooms. The committee evolved into an organization modeled after Tampa Bay Watch.

Today, Chinnis said both bay-watch groups seek to involve individuals in different fields whose livelihood depends on the health of the bay, including Realtors, fishermen, hoteliers and restaurateurs.

“The idea was to create a like-minded focus on the health of the bay as a non-confrontational organization,” Chinnis said.

Other speakers included Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County Natural Resources Department; Rene Jannemann, coordinator of Sarasota County Scallop Program; Todd Barber, chairman of Reef Ball Foundation; Mike Calinski, president and founder of Ocean Restoration Corporation & Associates; and John Ryan, president of Sarasota Bay Watch.

Approximately 50 people attended the meeting.

Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]

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