On Common Ground: Exploring Options for Collaborative Care &
Management of Seagrass Meadows at Fishers Island
Communities around Long Island Sound depend upon the benefits the Sound
provides. From boating and plentiful seafood to educational opportunities
and a source for human inspiration, these ecosystem services have sustained
our local economy and way of life for generations. Experience from around
the world shows that managing marine resources to safeguard these benefits
works best when communities are involved in taking care of local marine
habitats and wildlife.
From Hawai‘i to Florida, several pioneering communities and state agencies
have been working together to share management of their local marine areas.
What can we learn from the experiences of the communities and governments
engaged in these collaborative partnerships? From 2015 to 2016, Chantal
Collier, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Long Island Sound Program,
led a study at Duke University to explore this question and its relationship
to the 2012 New York state law that requires the Department of Environmental
Conservation (NY DEC) to designate Seagrass Management Areas and consult with
community members to protect, manage and restore seagrass habitat.
Seagrass meadows were once abundant throughout the bays and harbors of the
Sound, providing food, shelter and nurseries for thousands of ocean animals,
along with plentiful seafood and a resource for human recreation and
inspiration. Today – decimated by disease and other stressors – less than 10
percent of their historic acreage remains and nearly all of the seagrass left
in the New York waters of the Sound are located around Fishers Island. This
habitat is in good condition, but is at risk of decline – from nitrogen
pollution (from septic systems and fertilizer use), physical damage (from
vessel anchors, moorings, propeller scars, and fishing gear), and warming
seas – if nothing is done to protect it.
In August 2016, Ms. Collier presented the findings from her research, including
options for a collaborative management approach derived from Fishers Island
community members' perspectives, values, hopes and concerns regarding local
marine resources, to members of the island community and representatives from
the NY DEC.
For those who missed this presentation or would like more information, her
complete study can be viewed or downloaded at:
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