Music This week on Waterways, Invasive Exotics of South Florida. Dumeril’s boa, Argentine boa, Cockatoos! These animals are just a few of the pets handed over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at Pet Amnesty Day. The list is long; and the potential danger to the south Florida ecosystem from some of these invaders is grave. One particular invasive exotic animal has captured many media headlines: the Burmese python. A native to Asia, the Burmese python is one of the six largest snakes in the world, but it’s just one of an estimated three to four hundred different invasive plant and animal species in south Florida—and that’s just south of Lake Okeechobee. Some of these organisms are known to be invasive; while others have proven to be invasive elsewhere, but have not yet reached critical numbers here. But how did these snakes get here from Asia? One theory postulates that pythons were introduced in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew tore through Homestead, Florida, a town near the southeastern boundary of Everglades National Park. The storm flattened a flimsy storage facility for imported snakes and other reptiles resulting in a release of snakes into the surrounding ecosystem. But a more likely theory is that Burmese pythons in the Everglades are a cumulative effect of multiple pet owners releasing their snakes into the wild. It became obvious really early on that the reason we were having problems with constrictors out here in Everglades National Park and elsewhere in south Florida was because people were, perhaps, making poor, uninformed decisions about purchasing these snakes while they were small and then in a year when that snake got out to seven or eight feet or two years when it hits double digits they had no alternatives. To be honest with you that question of how these animals arrived here in the first place is somewhat moot. We know that they were here for one purpose and one purpose only: to be eventually sold into the pet trade at one time or another. These are animals that are brought in here specifically for ownership, for pet ownership. In south Florida, Burmese pythons are considered an invasive exotic species. Exotic species are non-native plants and animals introduced intentionally or accidentally to an area through human activity. It is crucial to draw a distinction between an exotic species and an invasive exotic species. An organism can be exotic and not be invasive. An exotic organism is not necessarily harmful to an ecosystem; an invasive exotic can be disastrous. Fortunately for us, the vast majority of species that are introduced into an area, exotic species, don’t turn out to be invasive. Invasive species are those that go out of control; that move beyond cultivation and get into areas where we don’t intend them to be and begin reproducing on the landscape. Invasive exotic species are able to dominate an ecosystem because they often have no or few predators. In their new environment, there are no mechanisms to keep the population in check. Invasive exotics have not evolved to live in the delicate balance of their new surroundings. Thus, some invasive species can decimate the flora and fauna of an entire ecosystem. The first line of attack to keep out invaders? Prevention. Biologists at Everglades National Park knew that eradicating ALL the pythons within the park boundary would not solve the problem; they still needed to eliminate the source. So in 2006, the Don’t Let It Loose campaign was developed. Through publications, school posters, PSAs, billboards and presentations, Everglades National Park made a concerted effort to reach out to the community and remind them of the danger posed by invasive plants and animals. As part of the Don’t Let It Loose campaign, resource managers decided to give people a way to get rid of their exotic pets in ways that did not hurt the environment. And starting in 2008, the Park partnered with The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and actually presented the first non-native pet amnesty day here in south Florida at Miami Metro Zoo. And it was a phenomenally successful event where we offered folks the opportunity to come out with their animals and no questions asked surrender their non-domestic pets with us. A wide range of animals appear at Amnesty Day events. Resource managers in Everglades National Park also knew that they could not control python populations or other invasive exotics if they could not reach beyond their borders. So in 2006, the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, or Everglades CISMA, was created. This interagency working group operates across administrative boundaries to better manage invasive species in south Florida. We’ve been dealing with some of these organisms for literally a century or more that they’ve been here in south Florida and have been actively managing them for decades. And they’re species that you’re familiar with; things like melaleuca, Brazilian pepper, Australian pine. And the reason we focus so much attention on these plant species is that they are capable of consuming entire acreages. While invasive exotic animals, like the python, get most of the media attention, invasive exotic plants could pose an even greater threat. Large areas of the Everglades that were once dominated by melaleuca, a native of Australia, are now at maintenance levels. Despite these successes, there are many areas of south Florida severely impacted by invasive exotic plants. Brazilian pepper, imported in the 1800s, now covers more than 700,000 acres in Florida and Old World Climbing Fern which can smother entire forests. It's unlikely these species will ever fully be eradicated. We have five success stories where our management actions have deliberately resulted in the eradication of a species from the south Florida landscape. And I’ll tell you right now, again this depends on your definition of eradication, it’s the black-tailed jack rabbit; the red-bellied piranha; the giant Gambian pouch rat; the giant African snail; really I don’t think we should importing anything with the word ‘giant’ in its name; but that’s just me. And, most recently a bird called the sacred ibis. Upon closer look at those five successful eradication efforts, there is one common thread: resource managers learned about those invasions early on; and they took action immediately. Yeah, they’re in here. This is Tony Pernas. Tony works for Everglades National Park and one of his jobs is to track an invasive exotic lizard called the Tegu. Well we basically, what we want to find out about the tegus is their movements in the Florida City area and whether they’re moving into natural areas and what habitats they’re using. We just want to find out as much information as we can about the tegus so we can hopefully effectively manage their population. Tony and his team have caught tegus within the boundaries of Everglades National Park. Today, they are collecting images from their field cameras in areas surrounding the Park. So as part of an effort to assess the population of Argentine black and white tegus, we have a system or a network of camera monitoring traps and this is one of them that we check periodically to see if any tegus are present in the area. These cameras are triggered by motion and infrared sensors. Using chicken eggs as bait, the researchers have had a lot of success capturing images of tegus. Really quickly, we’re downloading the data card and see if we had any activity. This is a good thing about these cameras, because you don’t actually have to be there. You can set up a network of these cameras with bait so you get a record of anything that’s visiting this site, twenty-four hours a day. So why are all of these exotic species showing up in south Florida in the first place? We are a biological hot spot for these invasions. We’re up there with southern California and Hawaii for being just a hub of having these things introduced; largely because of the large amount of commerce in the area as well as the favorable climate that hosts these organisms. So we’ve had a lot of things introduced, but we’ve been lucky so far that we haven’t really had that one cataclysmic species. That was until very recently. MUSIC Beautiful, bold, maroon and white striped patterns across the body; ornate spires jutting in all directions, regal and striking with long pectoral fins and prominent dorsal spines: the lionfish. So beautiful that people buy them for their home aquariums; however, these beautiful fish now threaten the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. Lionfish are an Indo-Pacific reef fish and the Florida Keys are far away from their native range. Today, however, they are established from North Carolina throughout the Caribbean, and are now invading the Gulf of Mexico. And if you look at the time in which they have achieved that geographic range, it is astounding. We first saw lionfish off the coast of North Carolina in 2000. That marked the beginning of the establishment of lionfish. And the Bahamas are probably the most heavily invaded area in the Caribbean right now. And the density of lionfish in the Bahamas now are among the highest we know of anywhere in the world. We’re talking in excess of four hundred lionfish per hectare. That’s a lot of lionfish. They are becoming one of the biggest predatory fish on the reef. A big question everyone has is how did this invasion start? And of course there are a number of different potential pathways; ballast water from ships; natural migration is highly unlikely seeing that it is a long way to the Indo-Pacific and there have been no populations established along the way. But aquarium releases are another pathway. And that’s the most likely pathway that these fish were introduced from. Releases usually happen because it gets too big for the aquarium; it costs too much to keep feeding it; the person holding the fish feels sorry for the fish because it’s a pet and they want to release it- sort of the ‘Nemo’ syndrome. Or they’re moving and they don’t want to kill the fish or give it back to the pet store. Once introduced to the Atlantic, lionfish spread rapidly. They have a superior ability to colonize, and their life history creates a perfect storm of propagation, starting with the larvae. The long larval duration period of lionfish allows them to basically be distributed anywhere in their invaded range. So lionfish spawned in the Caribbean for example can end up off of North Carolina waters because of that larval duration. And so that is one of the many characteristics of lionfish that has facilitated or allowed this invasion to take hold. Another reason lionfish have been able to colonize so effectively, is due to the lack of competition for reef space and food. For years, top-level predators that inhabit the Florida Keys reefs have been over-fished—this reduction of native species has left a vacant niche. And in the case of invasive species, we see classically that invaders can come in and occupy vacant niches in new environments and can cause real problems to those environments. Such is the case with lionfish and the real concern is that if lionfish come in and take over that niche then how will that impact our stock rebuilding efforts for the snapper grouper complex? And how will that impact the structure of the reef communities? Lionfish competing for a food source with economically important species is bad; lionfish eating economically important species is worse. Biologists have found Nassau Grouper, yellowtail snapper, and vermillion snapper in the stomachs of lionfish in the Atlantic. We’re concerned that as lionfish continue to prey upon these species and prey down the numbers, because lionfish are one of the most dominant reef fishes now in some coral reef environments like in the Bahamas, that they will then go to some of the juveniles of economically important species. And that’s a real concern because increase predation pressure on those economically important species could in fact hamper stock rebuilding efforts. Lionfish also consume ecologically important species, such as parrotfish and wrasses; fish that graze the reef and eat algae, which competes with coral. Lad Akins from Reef Environmental Education Foundation sees signs in the Bahamas that alarm him. They’re becoming one of the most abundant predatory fish on the reef. And the impacts that those fish are having are being seen as simply unsustainable. They’re consuming native reef fish at a rate far faster than the native fish can recover. The first confirmed lionfish sighting in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary was in January 2009, and resource managers in the Keys were ready for it. NOAA had been working on a lionfish invasion response program for nearly a decade. The program’s key element: engaging the public. Months before the first confirmed sighting, sanctuary staff and their partners at Reef Environmental Education Foundation and Mote Marine Lab educated the public on how to identify the fish and who to call to report a sighting. When the first lionfish sighting report came in January 2009, a response team from Reef Environmental Education Foundation, also known as REEF, was mobilized and caught the culprit the very next morning. Sanctuary managers even issued the fish a mock citation for trespassing. As reef managers anticipated, lionfish populations spread quickly throughout the Florida Keys reef tract. Six months after the first sanctuary sighting, the first lionfish was caught just south of Miami, in Biscayne National Park, the largest marine park in the National Park System. So far, park staff have caught nearly 900. Invasive exotics are a problem in Biscayne National Park. The lionfish represents the first case of a marine invasive that we’ve been concerned about. Before our main issues had been with plants, so this is a whole new realm for us. As the invasion progressed, so too did the response. In 2009, sanctuary managers and REEF began training dive-shop personnel, marine-life collectors and researchers on how to safely collect lionfish. Since 2009, more than 500 divers have been trained to safely handle and collect lionfish in the Florida Keys. Lionfish are very quick over short distances, which make them a challenge to catch. Many people say, well what is the best way to collect a lionfish? And certainly spearing a lionfish is an option where spearing is allowed. But because the fish are so quick and have such fast reflexes, it’s easy to miss with a spear; even on a very close approach. The lionfish just moves at the very last second and you miss. And once the spear goes flying by, the lionfish gets the idea- when I see a person, they are trying to get me and I’m going to leave. And it makes subsequent collection efforts for that fish very difficult. Lionfish hunters have had much more success using nets. Using two nets, the diver can gingerly maneuver the nets around the lionfish. That doesn’t mean don’t use a spear, in fact on some of the bigger fish that may be a better option. But especially for small fish and a higher success rate, the nets seem to work very, very well. Those who hunt lionfish need to exercise caution. It is highly recommended that anyone who handles lionfish receive training on how to do it safely. Although the spines on a lionfish are not lethal, reactions to the stings can vary and usually include pain and swelling. If you’re stung, the best treatment is to immerse the wound in hot, but not scalding water. A lionfish is venomous. Just the spines contain the venom. You don’t eat the spines and therefore you are not, you are not going to be exposed to any of the venom. We eat the flesh, we eat the filets and they are not poisonous in any way. If you haven’t been trained or you don’t feel comfortable capturing a lionfish, the next best thing is to mark down the location where you saw it. The good news about that information is that if we get a report, it’s very likely that fish is going to be in the same spot when we go out to respond. So we can have high confidence in being able to respond in our early detection and rapid response efforts. We have been looking at what’s going to keep them in check here. What keeps them in check in their native range; what keeps them in check in their invaded range. And what we’re finding is that few things eat lionfish. In feeding trials conducted fin a lab, Morris tested whether or not native groupers would feed upon lionfish. In almost every situation, the native groupers fed upon alternative prey when given a choice, avoiding lionfish even during extreme starvation. Not to say that nothing eats lionfish, but we’re finding that few things eat lionfish. That again is one of the characteristics in their life history that has probably allowed them to become so invasive. However, there is one predator at the top of the food chain that could help manage lionfish populations, us. Lionfish is actually a very good eating fish; and REEF and NOAA’s Eat Lionfish campaign are working to create demand for lionfish. Restaurants in the Florida Keys have already begun serving lionfish, and REEF has published The Lionfish Cookbook: The Caribbean’s New Delicacy. Encouraging restaurants to serve them on the menu is important. And trying lionfish; it is a great eating fish. It’s kind of a cross between on hogfish and a grouper; very delicate, light flavored meat. So encouraging that and eating lionfish when it is available. It’s going to help create that market demand. Lionfish are here to stay, but resource managers are working hard to keep their numbers in check using some novel control strategies. In 2010, REEF and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary hosted three lionfish derbies in which 660 lionfish were removed from sanctuary waters by dive teams competing for more than $10,000 in cash and prizes. More than 1200 lionfish were removed in two derbies in 2011 and more round-ups are being planned. Researchers collected samples from lionfish caught at the derbies to learn more about lionfish genetics, growth and impacts to native marine life, and tournament attendees sampled lionfish dishes. These events, along with diver involvement and lionfish consumption are important strategies in keeping lionfish under control. If the lionfish populations are going to be kept in check, the National Parks and the Marine Sanctuary need your help. To report a lionfish sighting or capture, take note of the location and submit a report to www.reef.org. I don’t want to minimize that fact that people are going to be the controlling factor of this. And if anyone wants to get involved and take part, they are really going to be doing a lot to help protect the oceans. Minimizing and managing lionfish populations is also dependent upon eliminating the historic source of lionfish introductions into the wild: people. The best thing to do if you have an unwanted fish is first contact the store at which you purchased the fish and see if they’re willing to take it back; and many are. If that’s not feasible, you may have other aquarium owners that may be interested in your fish. And finally if you just can’t do anything else, the most humane way to deal with the fish is probably just freeze it. Put it in a container, put ice in there, the temperature will cool off very quickly and the fish will just kind of shut down and end up passing away. You certainly don’t want to release it into the wild. The Keys is an especially sensitive environment. One, because of the status of coral reef environments in general; the stressors that are happening in coral reef environments, can in fact compound the stress induced by a lionfish invasion. And how these stressors all work together and impact the fish community and the coral community is really unknown. And we’re sort of getting out on virgin territory in terms of assessing or predicting or forecasting the impact of an invader like this. Each year, at least two or three new “invaders” appear in south Florida that don’t belong here. Will these exotic species become invasive? What will their impact be on the south Florida ecosystem? When we do have a new introduction, we count on those five to six million people out here to be our twelve million eyes and ears; our first line of defense in letting us know when new introductions happen. Recently, the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, launched a new campaign called I’ve Got One. Anybody in south Florida who sees a plant or animal that they don’t think is quite right—it looks different, sounds different, they think it’s an invasive species, they can report it, either by calling 1-888-I-GOT-ONE or online at www.Ivegot1.org. Making that report sets into motion a team of responders, just like a call to 911. A group of individuals goes out, verifies that report and if management actions mandate it, we can act quickly, interagency; to go and quell that population before it expands out of control. And that’s the key— acting quickly before a population gets out of control. But the local, state and federal land management agencies can’t do it without your help. Here’s what you can do: first and foremost— be a responsible pet owner. If you have an exotic pet you can no longer take care of, go to myfwc.com/nonnatives for dates and locations of upcoming non-native pet amnesty days. Second, learn to identify what’s native and what’s not. If you spot a plant or animal that shouldn’t be here, like the elusive Burmese python, report it at www.IvegotOne.org. To report a lionfish sighting or capture, go to www.reef.org. In the end, the natives will thank you. MUSIC
Music This week on Waterways. Eco-mariner, the Blue Star Program and DolphinSMART. In Waterways, we explore the natural and cultural heritage protected by south Florida’s national parks, national marine sanctuaries and national wildlife refuges. Come along as we highlight south Florida’s unique environment, a place of jaw-dropping beauty where millions of people live and recreate. This is a place unlike any other; a place many consider paradise. Along the way, we’ll also take a look at the environmental dangers south Florida is facing—dangers that threaten the beauty and balance of this paradise. Each Waterways episode introduces you to one small part of south Florida’s special places, explores what these places mean to our society, and details what committed people are doing to protect it. In this episode of Waterways, we share multiple ways that you, our viewer, can shape the future of south Florida and the Florida Keys. In 1938, while working on a wildlife reconnaissance project in what would become Everglades National Park, future park superintendent Daniel Beard wrote vividly of the park’s southernmost waters: “The waters of Florida Bay are often placid and stretch off in the distance without a ripple. Heat gives haze to the horizon so that it is sometimes almost impossible to tell where the water stops and the sky begins." At nearly half a million acres, Florida Bay does seem to stretch off into the distance. It is home to one of the largest and most important breeding grounds for wading birds in North America. Much of the bay’s shallow waters cover seagrass that provides habitat for recreationally and commercially important fish and invertebrates, making Florida Bay a fisherman’s paradise. However, every boat that runs aground; every propeller that scars seagrass; every nesting area that is disturbed contributes to the degradation of Florida Bay. Anyone who has ever ventured into Florida Bay knows why damage from boats is hard to avoid. It’s one of the most difficult areas on the planet to navigate. “So it’s very, very, very shallow boating area with channels that wind back and forth that are very, very difficult and hard to navigate.” Calling Florida Bay a “bay” is actually a misnomer. It’s actually a series of more than three dozen basins, separated by shallow banks with natural and man-made channels connecting them. Even Florida Bay veteran guides require laser-like focus to keep their boats afloat; a challenge that doesn’t keep newcomers away. Although navigating Florida Bay is complicated and requires great care, the Bay’s clear waters and renowned flats fishing draw increasing numbers of boaters every year. Inexperienced or careless boaters can easily damage seagrasses and mud flats with their propellers, churning up sediment and suffocating plants. Boaters that run aground may damage more than just their boats—they can also damage the fragile Bay floor and leave lifeless trails that can take a decade or more to recover. What makes this even more egregious is the fact that the entire Bay bottom is designated Wilderness. “It’s probably one of the greatest fishing grounds in the world, beautiful birds, lots of animals, manatees, crocodiles, turtles, everything, the diversity in Florida Bay is amazing. It’s the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators co-exist. So Florida Bay in itself is just an amazing place. It’s not just for fishing; it’s also for viewing, for exploring”. The desire to explore such a large and beautiful estuarine environment is understandable; the thrill of fishing world-class flats is undeniable; luckily the damage being caused by errant boats is reversible. Education, as always, is the key. “The reason Eco-Mariner exists is because there is an issue in Florida Bay right now with damage to the resource, damage to people’s boats, damage to wildlife and habitat and a lot of this reason is just for a lack of knowledge”. Eco-Mariner is a free online education course specifically designed to educate Florida Bay boaters on how navigate the bay’s shallow waters safely and properly, while protecting the bay bottom and the plants and animals that thrive there. Developed by the National Parks Conservation Association, Eco-Mariner was launched on April 22, 2009—Earth Day—with a goal to provide motor boaters with the knowledge to protect Florida Bay’s sensitive environment. The course, which takes just over an hour to complete, is designed to help you navigate and test your knowledge of the bay. “We didn’t want to just put information up there for information’s sake. We wanted it to actually translate over to the user. So that was the inception, that was the idea, was to put it online and then of course we went through lots of different edits and iterations, worked with the community, worked with the guides association, worked with the park, worked with everyone really in the Florida Keys community on what we could do to put this together and came up with a really great program called eco-mariner”. Two hundred people signed up to be Eco-Mariners the first two days the program became active. Today, there are more than 900 Eco-Mariners! Although this is encouraging news, the number of boaters in Florida Bay has skyrocketed. There are now more boaters on the bay than ever. And, even though most of them have GPS units, it doesn’t make navigating Florida Bay any easier. “The invent of GPS has really opened up a lot of areas for boating. But sometimes it’s opening it too wide. And Florida Bay is one of those places, you cannot navigate Florida Bay with a GPS. And that’s the key when you’re out there is you grab a chart, you learn the areas, you use your eyes, you don’t rely on GPS, you use your memory. You go out and you look to see what’s out there, you look at the islands, you recognize them, and that sort of learning is a lot harder than going out and looking at your GPS and following along the line; to actually know where you are. Because if you turn that GPS off, most people, a lot of people that are out there, won’t even know where they are. If you actually looked up and looked around, all of a sudden it’s like, wow, where am I?” High tide or low tide? Wind out of the northwest or southeast? 3 feet deep or 3 inches? These are the questions anyone who navigates Florida Bay’s narrow channels must ask. In fact, navigating the same channel over consecutive days reveals the dynamic nature of Florida Bay’s waterways and it’s shifting mud banks. “I’ve been out there boating in Florida Bay for about twelve years and I still hover over a chart every time I go out there. I may have a GPS on board and I may know where I’m going, but I have that chart there and I’m constantly going to that chart and checking to see what’s going on; just making sure what’s going on. You know it can take decades to really learn Florida Bay. And you can’t just learn Florida Bay with a GPS”. A mariner solely reliant on GPS is a danger to Florida Bay. An Eco-Mariner doesn’t need a GPS; an Eco-Mariner needs only their eyes—with polarized sunglasses—the proper charts, and their wits to safely traverse the bay. “Even if you don’ t go out on the water, if you’re a store owner, or if you own a shop here in the Florida Keys, your retail, your income is based on people coming down here to enjoy this wonderful resource. So for that shop owner to encourage and be an eco-mariner is just as important as the boater out there”. For more information on becoming an Eco-Mariner in Florida Bay, visit ecomariner.org. Or keep an eye out for Rob Clift and his traveling education center as they make their way around south Florida spreading the Eco-Mariner message. The eco-mariner website will have the events and schedules of where I’m going to be located. So there’s lots of different ways that you can get out and see us. So come visit us, listen to us on the radio stations, come down to the office, come to different events; if you see us out there, stop by the booth, and if you become an Eco-Mariner, I’ll give you that shirt. Many things have changed over the last thirty to forty years. But what hasn’t changed is the need to protect the incredible resources found only in Florida Bay. It’s time for everyone who visits this magical place to become an Eco-Mariner and protect it as their own. “I’ve realized that, you know, protecting a place like this is not just important for me anymore. It’s important for my children and my grandchildren. So I’ve learned, I’ve got a new motivating factor, and that motivating factor is that I hope that my son and daughter get to go out and kayak and fish and see birds in Florida Bay, because I don’t want to tell the story of the way it was”. SEGMENT 2 BLUE STAR MUSIC Visitors come to the Florida Keys to enjoy its natural wonders, the postcard perfect views, and the coral reef located just offshore. For those looking to make lasting memories underwater, more than 60 dive and snorkel operators are at the ready to take you to the reef. With so many options, choosing a tour operator can seem like a daunting task. But thanks to a stewardship program developed in partnership with tour operators, the choice is simple. Look before you book, for the Blue Star, awarded by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, to dive and snorkel operators who go above and beyond in reef education. Many people who come to the Florida Keys to dive or snorkel may not even realize that they are in a very special, and protected, place — Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is one of only 14 marine protected areas in a national system of marine sanctuaries. These sanctuaries were established to conserve our nation’s underwater treasures for future generations to enjoy. “The Florida Keys are a world class diving destination. It attracts visitors literally from around the globe. And it’s important that while we’re visiting and recreating in the Florida Keys that while you’re here as a tourist that you realize that visiting here can have an impact too. And we need to make sure our tourism is done responsibly and sustainably”. The places that divers and snorkelers enjoy visiting in the Florida Keys are mostly the colorful coral reefs, the third largest barrier coral reef system in the world. These corals are as beautiful as they are delicate; and research has shown that divers and snorkelers, whether they intend to or not, can have an impact. How much of an impact often depends upon their experience, as well as the influence of the divemasters and captains that take them there. That is why Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary developed the Blue Star Program. “The Blue Star Program is a voluntary recognition program; think of it like a stamp of approval from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to dive and snorkel operators throughout the Keys who are committed to coral reef conservation, who go the extra distance in their dive briefings, imparting additional knowledge to the seven hundred to eight hundred thousand visitors we have to our coral reefs each year”. The goal of the Blue Star Program? Reduce the impact of divers and snorkelers on the coral reef through education. Through Blue Star, charter boat staff receive training on the sanctuary, the coral reef ecosystem, and responsible diving and snorkeling etiquette, and then in turn, share that information with their customers. “Hi and welcome to the Moray Diver; I'm Jacob, I'm the captain. First off, we’ll be diving in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, we're advocating proper buoyancy”. Through Blue Star, the sanctuary standardized correct and consistent educational messages, to better engage the Keys dive community while simultaneously enhancing visitor awareness and appreciation of the reef ecosystem. Of the dozens of dive and snorkel operators in the Keys, some had been following Blue Star guidelines before they formally existed. For them, earning Blue Star recognition was relatively simple. “Well we started working with NOAA when we thought there was a need for a, some type of recognition for the divers that go, the dive operators that go above and beyond with the environmental training and concerns and imparting that to their customers”. Blue Star is a way to salute those operators who are environmentally conscious and who are already incorporating educational elements into their briefings. Blue Star is also a way to raise the bar, and encourage all dive and snorkel businesses to incorporate more stewardship and education into their business practices. “The Blue Star Program is made possible through a grant from Mote Marine Lab’s Protect Our Reefs license plate program and the Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys. It was developed in concert with dive and snorkel operators throughout the Florida Keys because we felt it was really important, it was critical to have their buy-in and to have their influence in developing this program”. One of the most important elements of the program is the Blue Star Briefing. Traditionally the boat captain gives customers a speech about boat safety; then the dive master or mate will give a site briefing describing the layout of the place they are visiting. Blue Star operators offer a third briefing during which visitors learn about the sanctuary, reef etiquette and threats to reef health. “We're really trying to hit home with not killing the corals; we have, you know, hundreds of coral polyps come together to make one coral, not a lot of people know that, so it's not just one organism, it's a whole community coming together so if you're swimming along and you brace yourself against a piece of coral you might kill 500 coral polyps and that's not something we're trying to do. We do our part and we're trying to get you guys to do your part not to beat up the reef; be careful and everybody have a fun safe dive”. “During a course of a calendar year, all the crews, staff, mates, captains of a Blue Star Recognized Dive Shop are required to go through a continuing education”. Continuing education allows the staff of Blue Star shops to stay informed of environmental developments, whether it be the lionfish invasion, new information on historic shipwrecks, or when this year’s coral spawn will be, and share that new information with customers. “Another special component to the Blue Star Program is that operators are committed to hosting conservation related activities at some time during the year. And this could be reef clean-up; a shoreline clean-up; a mangrove clean-up; it could be participating our teaming up with Mote Marine Lab’s Bleach-watch Program for example”. The benefits to becoming a Blue Star Operator go beyond the good feeling that comes with preserving our natural environment; there may be a financial benefit as well. “It’s our way to say, thank you, and it’s also our way when we have visitors that come to the Sanctuary or call the Sanctuary and our visitor’s center and they say, who should I go out with? We point them to the Blue Star website and recommend Blue Star recognized operators”. Blue Star Operators also benefit from having the Marine Sanctuary’s marketing muscle; which promotes the program and its messages through press releases, media interviews, and visitor outreach. The Blue Star recognition also gives operators a competitive advantage. “People are seeking out green opportunities. And if you’ve got two dive shops; if you’re looking at their websites, if you’re looking at their brochures side by side and you see one that has the Blue Star, committed to coral reef conservation logo, then chances are if that tourist is green, trying to go green, we believe firmly that they’re going to seek out a Blue Star operator”. Anyone looking to book a dive or snorkel trip in the Florida Keys; those hoping to leave this environment beautiful and balanced for generations to come, please look before you book; look for the placards and decals featuring the Blue Star logo with the current calendar year, and make sure the business you are supporting support the preservation of the coral reefs. Visit sanctuary blue star – dot – ORG for a list of current operators. SEGMENT 3 DOLPHIN SMART MUSIC For many people, viewing a dolphin in the wild is a life-long dream; for others, protecting wild dolphins is a life-long mission. These two goals intersect on the water in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, where every day charter tour operators take visitors out to observe these marine mammals in the wild, and where scientists and resource managers hope to foster stewardship of these animals through increased education. As the number of visitors to the Florida Keys and the number of visitors wanting to see dolphins has increased over the years, so too has the number of boats taking tourists out to see wild dolphins. “Key West is home to a local group of bottlenose dolphins. Anyone visiting the area or anyone who boats recreationally can see these animals year-round”. Some boaters and tourists come seeking a close encounter with dolphins, inadvertently assuming that the closer, the better. However, what they may not realize is that closely approaching or irresponsibly viewing dolphins can alter their natural behavior. Close approaches or other disruptive behavior such as pursuing groups or encouraging bow or wake riding can interrupt important behaviors needed for the dolphins’ survival, like feeding, resting, and nursing. Because of this, disrupting dolphins' behavior is a form of harassment and is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. And research has shown that over time, stress from sustained tourism pressure can actually result in resident dolphins departing an area permanently. Next time you see a group of dolphins, ask yourself, is an up-close photo worth risking the wellbeing of these dolphins? To help educate visitors and residents of the Florida Keys that close is not better and that dolphins deserve respect and a little extra distance, resource managers created the Dolphin SMART program. “The Dolphin SMART program is a voluntary recognition and education program that educates tour operators on how to responsibly view wild dolphins. Operators that choose to be Dolphin SMART, participate in the program, follow a suite of program criteria including viewing guidelines and advertising guidelines and also educate their guests on the importance of responsibly viewing dolphins”. The SMART in Dolphin “SMART” is a handy acronym. ‘S’ stands for ‘stay 50 yards back from dolphins; the ‘M’ stands for move away cautiously if dolphins show signs of disturbance; ‘A’ stands for always put your boat in neutral while dolphins are near; the ‘R’ stands for refrain from touching, feeding or swimming with wild dolphins; and the ‘T’ stands for teach others to be Dolphin SMART. “The Dolphin SMART Program started here in Key West, Florida. It was a collaborative development. It involved all stake-holders including the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Dolphin Ecology Project, and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society; as well as local businesses, including some of the dolphin tour operators in the area”. In addition to viewing responsibly, Dolphin SMART operators are also committed to not feeding or swimming with dolphins. Feeding wild dolphins has become an increasing problem since the late 1980's in many southeast coastal areas. Not only do these fed dolphins begin to rely on humans for their food but fed dolphins begin to associate the sound of motor boats with food risking dolphin injury and death from colliding with a boat propeller, or entanglement from fishing line. NOAA law enforcement reports also conclude that people are swimming with dolphins, particularly in Florida's coastal areas around Ft. Walton Beach, Panama City, Sarasota, Melbourne and Key West. Swimming with dolphins typically disrupts a dolphin’s natural behavior which is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Swimming with wild dolphins is very dangerous as well. “It’s important when you’re viewing wild dolphins to remember that they are top-level predators in our oceans. These animals have a lot of teeth, they have been known to bite people. They can injure people because they are very strong animals and you never know the situation you’re putting yourself in. You may be putting yourself between a mom and a calf, or a bull and a female. So you don’t want to put yourself in those dangerous situations”. If you are in a boat where dolphins approach, first, make sure the boat is in neutral, or better yet off, when the dolphins approach. Many times if you cut your engine, and don’t actively approach dolphins, they may choose to approach your vessel and you have a better chance of watching them engage in natural, normal behaviors. This is a wild dolphin encounter on their terms. This is the type of experience a Dolphin SMART operator provides. “So if you’re looking to view responsibly and you want to choose to go with a dolphin SMART operator, if you’re at a local marina or a local harbor you can look for the dolphin SMART flag or decals; those will have the logo on them and the current year for operators that are actively participating in the dolphin SMART program. You can also visit the dolphin SMART web site and under ‘who’s dolphin SMART?’ you can check out who the local operators are in your area that are part of the program”. It’s important to remember that dolphin SMART operators are trained to understand dolphin behavior and biology and to responsibly view the animals, so they can offer the best, up-to-date information about the groups of dolphins that their customers are viewing. “One of the business incentives of being dolphin SMART is that the dolphin SMART program is a cause marketing type of program. And cause marketing helps your business because people tend to either go to businesses more often or give more money to businesses that they know are helping to support a cause. So in the case of dolphin SMART our operators are supporting wild dolphin conservation”. There are a number of economic incentives for businesses to become ‘Dolphin SMART’. Press releases, news articles and web promotion are just a few of the ways Dolphin SMART operators benefit. Dolphin SMART operators also get free educational materials, including fin identification charts, behavior charts, and activity guides to share with their guests. But the biggest benefit comes from business generated by environmentally conscious customers who will only book Dolphin SMART. You know it’s great to have the dolphins here in the Florida Keys and it’s a great experience to come to Key West and view dolphins in their natural habitat. So by encouraging people to book dolphin SMART and by people responsibly viewing dolphins we could keep the Key West dolphins here and enjoy them for many generations. MUSIC
MUSIC This week on Waterways. Fort Jefferson Preservation Projects in the Dry Tortugas Home to the world’s third largest emergent coral reef; home to the nation’s largest nesting colony of sooty terns; home to the largest all-masonry fort in the United States. The Tortugas. The first recorded visit to the Tortugas was made by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon in 1513, just 20 years after Columbus set foot in the New World. He called them Las Tortugas, the turtles, for their large population of sea turtles. The word “dry” was added to the name later, to warn mariners that fresh water was in short supply. Located 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, visitors come from all over the world to behold the natural and historical wonders: in the sea; in the air. But, because more than 99 percent of the park lies underwater the feature most visible upon arriving in the Tortugas is Fort Jefferson, on Garden Key. “So Fort Jefferson, which is the main cultural resource at Dry Tortugas National Park, was constructed over a thirty-year period beginning in 1846”. While Theodore Roosevelt set aside the islands as a bird refuge in 1908, it wasn’t until 1935 that the National Park Service began managing Fort Jefferson. In 1992, it was re-designated as Dry Tortugas National Park to reflect the area’s natural, as well as cultural, features. There are two ways to get to Dry Tortugas National Park: by plane, or by boat. Those fortunate few who have the time and motivation to get to Dry Tortugas National Park are transported back in time. “So when they step off that boat they are in awe almost at this visual environment. I mean here you are standing in front of this massive masonry structure by beautiful crystal-clear blue water, there are birds flying, fish jumping, it’s really an amazing place”. It took hundreds of laborers and three and a half million dollars—that’s five hundred million in today’s dollars—for the thirty-year project. And, while Fort Jefferson’s cannons never fired a shot in battle, the size and design of Fort Jefferson became a deterrent for every foreign aggressor that ever heard reports of this intimidating fortification. “It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t been here what an amazing place this is; what a pivotal role forts like Fort Jefferson served in American history; the deterrence factor that a fort like Fort Jefferson served during the Civil War, during the Spanish American War; this is a phenomenal location”. Fort Jefferson’s design incorporated many of the latest technological advancements. Rainwater was collected and held in cisterns below each gunroom or casemate; and iron shutters were installed that were specifically designed to protect cannon crews by opening and closing automatically. It’s impossible not to notice the estimated 16 million bricks that cover Fort Jefferson; but less noticeable are the iron shutters. One of the key identifying historical features of Fort Jefferson is the wrought iron Totten shutter assemblies embedded in every lower tier opening. The ‘Totten’ shutters are named after their inventor, Joseph Gilbert Totten, an engineer in the United States Army. The Totten shutter assembly was a major technological feat of its day. “So the cannonball would fire out of the opening, the doors would recoil shut, the locking pins on the door would slide up that beveled face and then drop into those two divots within the strike plate”. Unfortunately, the Totten shutters built to protect the fort and the men firing the cannon are gradually destroying the fort. Over the years, the wrought iron has expanded. The iron’s expansion is much more powerful than the strength of the brick and mortar surrounding it. The result? “Blow-outs” causing bricks to fall from the fort walls into the moat below. “Herein lies our conundrum. We have this incredible, key feature that is important to the history of the structure; it’s important to military technology, yet this same feature is a main aspect that’s creating a massive structural issue throughout time. So right now, this is a great example to see the composite result of what happened over the whole stretch of the structure when we cannot get these iron components out. So it starts out with simple expansion and sort of an immediate deterioration of the masonry around the structure”. As park employees witnessed major sections of the facade falling into the water, they knew something had to be done. The question was... how would they repair the fort’s walls? These types of repairs had never been attempted anywhere in the world. So in the 1980s, the National Park Service entered into uncharted territory and started testing various techniques to repair the walls. “When we did the mock-up, our replicated Totten shutters were made out of a plastic polymer material. When we went to Phase 1, we actually found a better material, which was called GFRC, which is glass fiber reinforced concrete. And when we made that switch to GFRC I think we have a much better replication of the iron components in. It looks more like iron, the color’s more true to the iron and overall just a better product”. Some of the material used to build Fort Jefferson came from the vicinity, including coral and sand. Other materials had a much longer journey. Natural cement used in the fort’s structure came from New York. The bricks were made in Pensacola, Florida, prior to the Civil War. After the war started, with Florida standing with the Confederacy, bricks had to be shipped from Maine. The process of stabilizing Fort Jefferson would replace these materials with similar materials. Enola Contracting Services employed fifteen men who worked 12 hours a day for 21 days straight. After 3 weeks of hard work, they would fly home for a week’s rest before starting the cycle again. They worked this schedule from November to June for four years. “We spend hours surveying each area, marking brick, just figuring out which comes out, which ones stay; and then it takes twice as long because we could just wipe this whole wall out in hours, compared to whole week to do a section of wall so we can save the historical material”. “I think the people that worked on this fort in original construction were very proud of this building. This is a structure where form was following function. And yet, we have incredible masonry going on in here; and guys that really put some time and effort and were showing off their craftsmanship. I think you’ll see that sense of pride carrying over to the masons that are working on this project today. It’s not every day that you work on a massive military fort from the 19th century in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico”. “The masonry is fairly standard out here. It’s everything else that’s involved; it’s the distance from land; it’s the distance from a city, how we have to get everything out here; the shifts we have to work; the getting manpower out here. That doubles the workload of the job”. “So what you have here is this is completed phase 2 work and obviously phase 2 work in progress. We’ve removed the original Totten shutters. We’ve reconstructed the lower tier embrasures. We stabilized the second tier embrasures and then we carried out selective brick replacement at the parapet. On top of that, we’ve done a repointing campaign that more or less works out to be about a hundred percent of the wall for a complete stabilization of this front”. Phase 2—the removal of the Totten shutters and the stabilization of most of the fort walls—was completed in May 2011. The next phase would stabilize Front 3 and a small section of Front 2. However, there is other work being done that some would say is equally important to the preservation of Fort Jefferson. “Aside from this, the park is actually doing a lot of other preservation projects. Some highlights of that are we recently mounted one of the original 15-inch Rodman cannons on a historically accurate carriage which if located on the terreplein level of the fort and that has truly become a highlight of the park experience”. The Rodman cannon at Fort Jefferson were manufactured in 1871 and were installed on top of the fort in 1872 and 1873. The 15-inch Rodman fired a solid shot that weighed 450 pounds or a hollow shell that weighed 350. It could hit a target three miles away—the distance from Fort Jefferson to the Loggerhead Lighthouse! Installed along with the Rodman cannon were the smaller 10-inch Parrot guns, manufactured in 1864 and 1865. “Of the surviving twenty-five 15-inch Rodman guns, we have six of them here at Fort Jefferson. Of the thirteen surviving 10-inch Parrots, we have four. So we have almost a quarter of the surviving guns at this site”. In 1900, Fort Jefferson’s armaments were sold for scrap. All of the cannons, their carriages, the cannon balls, and tons of equipment were sold, including the ten largest cannon still present at the fort. “Fortunately for us, they couldn’t get these large guns down from the top of the fort. Unfortunately, they were able to get the carriages. So the cannon actually lay in the sandy, salty terreplein for over a hundred years”. The harsh environment of the Dry Tortugas took a toll on the remaining cannon. Large areas of corrosion formed in areas where the cannon sat in contact with sand. The overwhelming size of the cannon—a 15-inch Rodman cannon weighs 25 tons—in such a remote location on top of Fort Jefferson, prevented any real progress on cannon preservation until the 1980s. Help came from the 482nd Civil Engineers Squadron stationed at Homestead Air Reserve Base who devised a way to lift the huge guns out of the sand and up on to blocks. In addition to lifting the cannon, the 482nd would also play a key role in the National Park Service’s plans to mount the large guns. But first, the cannon would need to be conserved. “So we put out a request for a proposal and that was awarded to Tucker Bert Conservation out of Maine. And their proposal was innovative. And they are the ones that seemed to really understand it. And so we, in 2007, we came out to treat the first cannon”. Standard methods of cannon conservation were not feasible in this remote location with limited electricity, water, housing and personnel. Adding to the difficulty was the fact that these 25-ton cannon sat on the terreplein at the top of the fort. “You start to think the way NASA thinks. So there’s a lot of redundancy, you bring not one but two of something you need; you try and think ahead to what you expect may happen and try to cover those areas”. “In order to treat the exterior of the guns we needed to take off all of that corrosion and get it back down to bare metal. Actually and the way that was done was using a guarded abrasive to sandblast off all of that corrosion and take it back down to white metal”. Once the metal surfaces were exposed, a zinc-rich primer was applied, followed by two coats of a special paint. This state-of-the-art primer and paint system is the same system used on ships and bridges, which—like the cannon at Fort Jefferson—are iron objects exposed to salty marine environments. “One of the things that was critical to me in this project is that the conservation that was done to the gun would have as long a maintenance cycle as possible. This is a very labor intensive process. It’s not something that we can do annually, particularly with ten guns”. Extending the maintenance cycle was a major factor in the approach used by Ron Harvey and his partner in the project, Jonathon Taggart. The paint system on the outside of the cannon seals out moisture, preventing new corrosion from forming. Treating the inside of the cannon, however, presented another challenge. The interior of a Rodman gun—called the bore, is 16 feet long, but only 15 inches in diameter, which made accessing it for treatment difficult. “One of the changes, one of the unique things that we did with the proposal was suggest dealing with the bore in a different way”. Inspired by historic tools used to swab out the cannon tube, Taggart and Harvey created their own versions of tools to clean the cannon bores and apply a protective coating inside the guns. Harvey also developed a methodology that he calls the ‘double-port system’ to create a separate microclimate within the bore. After coating the bore, a trough of silica gel was installed behind the inner door—or port—to keep the relative humidity inside the cannon very low. Harvey installed a data logger between the two ports to monitor what was going on inside the cannon. The goal is to keep the cannon dry from the inside out. If the relative humidity stays below 15%, corrosion will not form. By electronically monitoring the internal environment of the cannon, there is no guesswork. Thus far, the team’s techniques have proven very successful and the silica gel is expected to have a maintenance cycle of 4 to 5 years. “And it allows a park that has limited service, has limited people, to reduce their preservation practices that they really don’t have to do a lot; they just have to monitor and when it’s time, they change out the silica gel”. The conservation treatment of the cannon ensures their long-term preservation, but it does little to help visitors understand how these guns worked or their role in defending the Gulf. Without the missing carriages, that part of the story is hard to understand. “It was actually a couple of years ago when we were working towards the park’s 75th anniversary that we thought this would be fantastic gift to the public to be able to remount one of these guns for the first time in 110 years visitors could come out here and see what one of these large guns looks like on a carriage”. The technical challenges to mounting one of the 25-ton Rodman guns were immense. In the end, more than 50 people were involved in the mounting project in one way or another. Having a carriage made was the easy part, since the original design drawings still exist at the National Archives. However, the original Rodman gun platforms at Fort Jefferson were only temporary platforms that didn’t survive intact and there were no historic drawings or photographs of them known to exist. To help them understand what needed to be reconstructed, National Park Service archeologists conducted excavations at the fort to determine the size, shape, and construction details of the original platforms. To reconstruct the platform on top of the fort, Russell relied on the park’s long-time partnership with the 482nd Civil Engineers Squadron. Historically, the platform would have been created first and then the gun brought to the top of the fort. But with the 25-ton cannon already in place, the 482nd had to devise a phased approach to building the platform, an approach that would construct the platform around the existing cannon. Perhaps the greatest challenge, however, was how to lift the cannon. Because of Fort Jefferson’s location and structural design, using a modern crane was not an option. Fortunately, Nancy Russell had been scouring the archives and historic references for any information on the fort’s artillery. “She came running back from the archive saying, look, look I found the artillery manual from the Civil War and they had pictures in it of the devices they used to move these cannons. There was a sledge, or a cradle, which the cannon would rest in and then would be on rollers and then would roll on this plank highway. And that’s how they moved them. And I said, Nancy that’s what we need to do. That’s how we should move it”. Using the historic references as inspiration, Taggart and his team redesigned the historic tools used to move the cannon, once again creating modern versions of the tools used almost 150 years earlier. The same basic principles and equipment were used, but materials and methods were brought into the 21st century to improve safety and reduce labor. “We did exactly what they did in the Civil War is that we built a plank highway, we actually put some steel on top of it; they would have used rollers; just pipe rollers or log rollers to roll. We thought that was a little scary so we actually used modern machinery movers and two come-alongs that we were able to, two people just pulling on the come-alongs; we had one person on the backside to act as a break just in case it decided to run away on us”. Records indicate that it took fifty privates and two officers working in two teams to lift a 25-ton Rodman cannon up to the top of the fort. Once there, a team of twelve was needed to move the gun into position. Russell, Harvey and Taggart had far fewer personnel; only two men were needed to pull the cannon onto the platform for lifting. Once it was on the platform, a single man moved the 25-ton cannon backwards into position. The cannon then needed to be lifted and held 7 and a half feet in the air so that the carriage could be constructed underneath it. Here again, history proved invaluable. Historically, installing the cannon on their carriages was always difficult and dangerous work. In the late 1870s, a man named Theodore Laidley invented a gun-lift to aid in mounting and dismounting 15-inch Rodman guns. Although Laidley’s gun lift was invented after the Fort Jefferson guns were mounted in 1873, it presented the safest option for doing the work today. It took Russell months to find the design drawings for Laidley’s gun lift, eventually locating them with the help of the Smithsonian’s library staff. The Laidley gun lift’s design was improved upon by Taggart and his team and the cannon was safely lifted. “So we had an engineer design following the Laidley gun-lift which was originally in wood. They would have lifted it with chains; we lifted it with dakron lifting slings, and hydraulic jacks. We were surprised to find that during the Civil War that they actually used hydraulic jacks to move these things”. Now that the cannon was raised, a new crew came in to build the carriage underneath it. The carriage is constructed from stainless steel to ensure its long-term preservation in the harsh marine climate. The three-man team hoisted the individual parts of the carriage—some of which weighed in excess of 1,000 pounds—up to the top of the fort and assembled it under the cannon. Once the carriage was complete, the cannon was gently lowered. Visitors to Dry Tortugas National Park today will see a Fort Jefferson that hasn’t been seen in over 100 years, and one vastly improved over just five or ten years ago. The fort’s walls are being repaired and the appearance of the Totten shutters restored. The cannon are being treated and maintained. The military deterrent that the guns represented is visible as the mounted Rodman gun aims over the fort’s walls, a warning to approaching ships, which today carry visitors. “Now having this just one gun mounted, people come up and suddenly they get it. They really understand what it was about, how it was meant to be used; they’re asking all kinds of questions about what it took to man that gun, to service the gun, how far it could shoot, they really are starting to get interested in it, whereas before it was very much an inanimate object. Now through the mounting process they really get it”. The National Park Service and its partners continue to work to preserve the cannon at Fort Jefferson. As of March 2012, eight of the 10 large guns have received conservation treatment. Mounting all 10 cannon on reproduction carriages is very expensive, but the need to preserve the guns and improve the visitor experience at the park continues. The 482nd Civil Engineers Squadron continues to make platforms to mount the remaining Rodman guns. By the end of 2014, the park expects to have all 10 guns conserved and six of the guns mounted. After the Rodmans are completed, Nancy Russell and her team hope to get funding to tackle mounting the smaller Parrott guns. “Nancy got the bee under her bonnet seven years ago to make this happen, and today, behind me, you see the results. It’s humbling; it’s exciting; and it’s also rewarding to be part a team that brought about this vision”. “We have something really special here; we have a marriage of cultural and natural resources that may or may not exist anywhere else in the Park Service. With that I think it’s essential to do what we can to preserve this structure”. A wise man once said, a civilization can be judged by how it treats its cultural heritage. One day, our generation may be judged positively by how we treated and preserved Fort Jefferson. MUSIC
Exploring the bay can take a toll on you, your boat and the environment. Hear what experienced boaters have to say by watching this episode.
Did You Know?
Around 15 federally threatened and endangered species reside within the boundaries of Everglades National Park. Sea turtles, crocodiles, and West Indian Manatees (pictured left) are but a few of these.