Pathway to
The Future of Apalachicola Bay
Welcome to the first newsletter of the Apalachicola Bay System Initiative (ABSI) at the Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory. In this issue, we introduce you to ABSI, the leadership, and the advisory boards.

The ABSI mission is to gain insight into the root causes of decline of the Apalachicola Bay ecosystem with a focus on oyster reefs, and ultimately, with guidance from the Community Advisory Board and input from stakeholders and the public, to develop a science-informed ecosystem management and restoration plan focused on the recovery of Apalachicola Bay.
The goal of the newsletter is to keep you up-to-date on the science conducted by ABSI and its partners and our progress towards developing the management and restoration plan. We will issue the newsletter after each Community Advisory Board meeting, roughly every 2 months. 
Progress on the Initiative
Dr. Sandra Brooke is the Principal Investigator and science lead, and Dr. Felicia Coleman is the Co-Principal Investigator and lead on community engagement and policy objectives. When the initiative began in May 2019, their first task was to convene a Community Advisory Board and a Science Advisory Board, both essential components to help guide the initiative forward.
Active involvement of the Community Advisory Board in a meaningful consensus-building process is key to the development and implementation of the management and restoration plan. The rigorous selection process for members (involving interviews conducted by the FCRC Consensus Center team) resulted in a dedicated group of people who commit their time and expertise to help develop the recovery plan for the Bay. The members include commercial and recreational seafood harvesters, seafood dealers, and aquaculture experts, as well as representatives from natural resource agencies, local businesses, local government, and conservation organizations.

The Community Advisory Board has met eight times -- four times at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (October 2019 to March 2020) and since then virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing. Meetings will continue to be virtual until the pandemic is contained.

These meetings so far have focused on developing goals, objectives, and strategies for developing the management and restoration plan and expanding community engagement. They also include updates on ABSI science objectives and Board-requested presentations on a range of topics. The meetings, facilitated by FCRC, are open to the public.
The Science Advisory Board is composed of four experts in oyster ecology and management. While the initial meeting occurred in December 2019, the members provide valuable advice on a number of different topics on an ongoing basis and will provide input at upcoming Community Advisory Board meetings.

The next steps for ABSI include completing a draft plan– anticipated in early 2021 –and seeking input on the draft from stakeholders and the public. When this process is completed, ABSI will present the plan to the relevant resource management agencies for consideration and possible implementation. Support for the plan from stakeholders and the public is essential.
Want to learn more?
If you are interested in diving in right now, you will find all the information from our Community Advisory Board meetings on this website, including upcoming meeting dates and agendas, recordings of proceedings, copies of all agendas, summary documents, and science and management presentations.

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