Wednesday Update
April 21, 2021

Welcome to the bi-weekly Wednesday Update. We'll email the next issue on May 5.

We encourage you to get outdoors often and to join us in taking action to protect and care for our coastal ecosystems in celebration of Earth Day on April 22!

Thanks to Christie Allen of Hudson Road Photography for this photo of an osprey (Pandion haliaetus).


Please send your photos to to be featured in an upcoming issue.
A Poem in Honor of Earth Day
This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere:
the dew is never all dried at once:
a shower is forever falling, vapor is ever rising.
Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming,
on sea and continents and islands, each in turn,
as the round earth rolls.

--John Muir
Sea Turtle Nesting Season Begins; No Nests Yet
After several weeks of preparation, SCCF's Sea Turtle Program celebrated its first day of the 2021 sea turtle season on April 15. Four teams of volunteers hit the beach to survey 18 miles of nesting habitat on Sanibel and Captiva.

Pictured here is long-time volunteer Frances Tutt giving a thumbs up on the first sunrise of the season.

“Last year, COVID restrictions postponed volunteer participation until mid-May, so we were thrilled to start the season as a full team,” said SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan.

The 2021 seasonal staff includes technicians Megan Reed and Courtney King and interns Hollis Hatfield and Sabrina Sorace. “Each of them has an impressive background with hands-on sea turtle experience, and we are excited to have them on our team,” Sloan said.

Sloan noted that during sunrise surveys, monitors have encountered a large amount of furniture left on the beach overnight. “All furniture needs to be removed by 9pm,” she noted, “and holes should be filled at the end of the day so nesting turtles don’t get injured or trapped.”

As of today, no nests or false crawls have been documented on Sanibel or Captiva. The first loggerhead nest on the Gulf coast was discovered today (April 21) on Manasota Key. The nest was found by Coastal Wildlife Club personnel at Charlotte County's Stump Pass Beach State Park.

Click here to learn more about how you can help keep the beaches clean and safe for sea turtles.

Photo by Shane Antalick
Show Your Support of Florida Forever Funding!
Just in time for Earth Day, we can celebrate the legislative budget agreement to fund the State’s Florida Forever land acquisition program at $100 million.

The Joint (House/Senate) Agriculture, Environment and General Government Budget Conference Committee members met this past weekend for their first budget negotiation session and will be meeting again soon to reconcile the budgets.

To date, the Senate has agreed to accept the House’s budget proposal of $100 million for Florida Forever, a significant improvement from the Senate’s original proposal of $50 million. 

This is good news for Florida’s land acquisition efforts, water quality, and wildlife that depend on natural areas, but we have not crossed the finish line yet. Join us in contacting the budget committee members by clicking the “TAKE ACTION” button below to thank them for proposing $100 million for Florida Forever and to reinforce the importance of the program to our quality of life in Florida.
Protect our Water Quality from Proposed Aquaculture
By James Evans
Environmental Policy Director

Your voice is needed to urge the Biden Administration to deny the permit for a harmful aquaculture operation in the Gulf of Mexico!

Now, after heavy local opposition and renewed consideration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), SCCF is hopeful that the project’s permit will be rescinded due to the extensive environmental and economic impacts this project will have on Southwest Florida.

It has the potential to impact water quality and native fish stocks as the first aquaculture facility permitted in waters off the continental United States.

Ocean Era Inc. —a Hawaii-based corporation—is proposing an aquaculture pilot project 45 miles off the coast of Sarasota. The goal of this project is to assess the prospects and efficacy of aquaculture in U.S. waters.

SCCF is not opposed to aquaculture in general. However, there are significant concerns with this project and the potential environmental, ecological, and economic impacts that it may have on the coastal waters and communities of Southwest Florida.  

Aquaculture facilities are intensive operations that generate large amounts of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and waste products, require heavy doses of antibiotics and other chemicals to maintain fish health, and create farmed populations that are low in genetic diversity. SCCF’s scientists believe that this project will impact water quality in an area of the Gulf prone to red tide and other harmful algal blooms, and the operation has the potential to impact native fish stocks.  
In 2018, Southwest Florida experienced one of the worst red tide events in recorded history. The City of Sanibel removed more than 850,000 pounds of dead marine life from Sanibel’s beaches. The Islands of Sanibel and Captiva Chamber of Commerce reported economic losses of more than $47 million from July to December related to tourism, real estate, and recreational fishing.

A lot is still unknown about the organism that causes Florida red tides (Karenia brevis), but research suggests that excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the waters where red tide blooms occur can enhance and/or prolong bloom events. Southwest Florida communities cannot afford another year like 2018. The State of Florida and the federal government should be working together to reduce and eliminate nutrient loading to our coastal waters, not authorizing projects that will contribute new sources of nutrients in areas where red tide blooms most often occur.

The EPA issued a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit for the project on Sept. 30. SCCF and the City of Sanibel, along with numerous environmental groups, commercial fishermen, and local governments along the Gulf coast, submitted letters to the EPA opposing the project. Despite overwhelming opposition to this project, the EPA moved forward with issuing the permit.

In recent weeks, however, the Biden Administration has directed the EPA to revisit this permit before any action takes place. Make your voice heard and tell the EPA that you oppose this aquaculture facility proposed in the Gulf of Mexico. Provide your comments to the U.S. EPA today with one click!
Six Eaglets Fledge During Bald Eagle Nesting Season
Since the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nesting season began in September, SCCF staff and dedicated volunteers monitored 11 nest structures that yielded six eaglets on Sanibel, Captiva, and North Captiva.

The nesting season for bald eagles in Florida ends May 15, but it appears our local eagle population has already wrapped it up.

On Sanibel, five out of seven nests monitored had nesting attempts—two successfully fledged two eaglets (for a total of four), though the three others failed. On North Captiva, a monitored nest successfully produced a fledgling.

On Captiva, two of three monitored nests showed active attempts—one succeeded in producing a fledgling, which was successfully treated at Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) after falling from its nest. Two eaglets in the other nest died, and one sent to CROW tested positive for rodenticide (rat poison).
SCCF encourages these alternatives so poison doesn't get in the food web and kill animals that feed on rats and mice such as eagles, barn owls, hawks, and bobcats.

  • Rodent-proof your home, attic, and garage by sealing entry points.
  • Encourage rodent predators by landscaping for wildlife and posting owl boxes.
  • Ask your pest control professional about physical trapping.
  • Keep overhanging branches from roof lines.
  • Keep trash secure.

SCCF wishes to thank the 12 volunteers who help monitor these nests and report their findings to us and to the Audubon Florida’s Eagle Watch program. Questions concerning the bald eagles on our islands can be directed to

Photos by Cheri Hollis
Red Tide Falls to Background Levels Around Islands
The latest red tide update from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) indicates that the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, is still present in Southwest Florida, with extensive fish kills reported in Charlotte Harbor.

Click here to watch an NBC-2 news story about the fish kills in Charlotte Harbor featuring SCCF Research Scientist Rick Bartleson, Ph.D.

Over the past week, K. brevis was detected in 40 samples. Bloom concentrations (>100,000 cells/liter) were observed in one sample each from Sarasota, Charlotte, and Collier counties.

For the third week, samples from Lee County and around the islands detected K. brevis mostly at background levels.

In Southwest Florida, K. brevis was observed at background to medium concentrations in Sarasota County, background to high concentrations in Charlotte County, and background to medium concentrations in Collier County.

SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht didn’t note shorebird issues during her survey of Bunche Beach, but beachgoers were complaining of a large accumulation of red drift algae, she said.

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) has reported admitting seven avian patients suffering from Karenia brevis toxicosis in the past week but only one, a double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), survived.

Three other cormorants, an osprey, great blue heron, and brown pelican died. SCCF also documented two deceased loggerheads (Caretta caretta) on Sanibel, though the causes of the deaths have not been established.

Click the button below to learn more about red tide.
Marine Lab Data Enables Florida DEP to Evaluate Gulf
The SCCF Marine Laboratory recently uploaded its extensive water quality data from Gulf waters off our islands into the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) Watershed Information Network database system. This is a major step forward so that the state can officially evaluate the Gulf of Mexico’s quality for management planning.

Southwest Florida residents are likely to assume that the state already understands what’s happening in the Gulf due to repeated red tide and algae bloom events that impact humans and wildlife. However, not even one “waterbody unit” in the Gulf has ever been evaluated by FDEP due to a lack of enough water quality data.

SCCF put forth a tremendous effort for this very purpose. The SCCF Water Quality Database was created in 2009 and it includes 88,000 sampling and analysis records from nearly 9,700 separate sampling events. Using the R/V Norma Campbell, The Marine Laboratory regularly collects water quality data in the Gulf of Mexico thanks to funding from the Vince Family through Goldman Sachs Cares.
“That’s a lot of records,” said SCCF Research Associate Mark Thompson. “The FDEP requires each record to go through a series of more than 100 quality-assurance checks before it can be accepted. The data must be in the correct form and order, with the correct elements that fall within acceptable ranges. You can imagine how time-intensive this feat was to upload 88,000 records.”

This massive undertaking will eventually be rewarded through improved state and federal management. The Impaired Waters Rule requires the state to identify impaired waterbodies based upon existing water quality data—so now it has data that show how and where the water is impaired and the sources of those problems.

The FDEP’s Watershed Information Network (WIN) database evaluates and maps the state’s waters, each portioned into what the state calls a “waterbody ID unit” as indicated on this chart. A certain amount of data is needed before the unit is evaluated, and the information is used by researchers and reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“SCCF has collected enough data to satisfy FDEP requirements for evaluating Gulf of Mexico waterbody segments near Sanibel and Captiva,” said Thompson. “This data is ready to be accessed by FDEP so it can get started on improving water quality in the Gulf.”

Thompson added, "This sounds dry and boring to most folks – even to the person who did it. But there was a warm and fuzzy feeling which transpired just after the deed was done."

  • Editor's Note: In our April 7 Wednesday Update, an article stated that the SCCF Marine Lab was founded in 1967. That was when SCCF was founded. Our Marine Lab was formalized in 2002. Click here to read about the history of the lab in a 2010 article co-authored by Marine Lab Director Eric Milbrandt, Ph.D.
Southwest Florida Resiliency Compact Now Complete
By Luke Miller
Environmental Policy Intern

SCCF is happy to report all member parties of the Southwest Florida Regional Resiliency Compact officially joined together on April 13.

The Compact is an agreement between municipal and county governments across Charlotte, Collier, and Lee counties. It is the newest regional climate compact developed in Florida in recent years.

The Southwest Regional Compact aims to “develop a regionally consistent approach to the impacts of climate change and to advance local and regional responses to, and preparations for, economic and social disruption projected to result from the impacts of climate change.”

The Compact consists of the following participants:

  • Charlotte, Collier, and Lee counties
  • Lee County municipalities: Sanibel, Cape Coral, Estero, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, and Bonita Springs
  • Captiva Erosion Prevention District
  • Collier County municipalities: Naples, Everglades City, and Marco Island 
  • Charlotte County municipality Punta Gorda 
The Compact will enable municipalities in Southwest Florida to unite for collective action against the impacts of sea level rise, harmful algal blooms, increasing storm intensity, and other climate change-driven issues.

In coming years, issues such as these will have serious effects on business and tourism, property values, and the overall quality of life of Southwest Florida residents.

By joining together in this regional collaborative, participants will share region-specific tools and knowledge, increase public awareness, and support for its efforts, and coordinate collective actions across these jurisdictions to advocate on the state and federal levels more effectively.

Additionally, cooperation between the Compact’s members will lead to more effective research, public education, communication, and planning.

Other similar compacts throughout the state, such as the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, have already had great success. It began in 2009 and has been highly effective in deploying climate adaptation and mitigation measures, growing bipartisan support for climate action, and forming relationships with both private and public agencies and organizations. Here in Southwest Florida, we can now do the same.

The work to build a climate-friendly future is just beginning, but the shared efforts, resources, and expertise that we can employ through the Compact is a strong start! 
Know Your Invasive Plants: Old-World Climbing Fern
Old-world climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum) is an invasive exotic plant species distributed throughout much of South and Central Florida. Its natural distribution ranges from tropical areas of the African and Asian continents to the Pacific Islands.

The fern escaped cultivation in or around Martin County, Fla., circa 1965. Lygodium readily spreads via rhizomes and wind-driven spores. To date, only a few individual specimens have been documented and removed on Sanibel; however, this invasive plant has impacted hundreds of thousands of acres of natural ecosystems, rapidly colonizing the diverse habitats of tree islands throughout many of Florida’s wetlands.
To combat this invasion, some agencies are utilizing airborne LiDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) to detect infestations and eradicate them through the aerial application of herbicide. Rapid growth rates and pyrogenic (fire adapted) characteristics allow this plant a competitive edge over native species, engulfing vast areas of critical habitats in a relatively short time frame.

“If left unnoticed or unchecked on Sanibel, the fern could have irreversible and devastating impacts to our natural habitats,” said SCCF Land Steward Victor Young. “SCCF and our partner agencies continue to monitor for infestations throughout the island.”

If you spot this invasive on the islands, email

Photos by UF/IFAS, click here for more photos to help with identification.
Collaboration Creates New Swallow-Tailed Kite Monitoring Program

In recent years, people have reported seeing an increase in the number of swallow-tailed kites on Sanibel, especially during the nesting season.

A few nests have been monitored by a small group of dedicated volunteers for several years. With some upcoming habitat restoration projects in the works, SCCF, the City of Sanibel, and the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge banded together to establish a kite monitoring program with guidance from the Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI).

ARCI has been studying swallow-tailed kites for decades and its expertise was invaluable in establishing this new monitoring effort. Collectively, we can gain a better understanding of how these beautiful birds are utilizing our island and how we can help protect them.

In mid-March, Sanibel conservation biologists conducted surveys across Sanibel Island to locate suitable habitats and possible nest structures. Several nests were located and confirmed to have incubating kites.

The team is currently monitoring seven active nests on the island and believes more may be identified in the coming weeks.

Kites are still returning from their wintering grounds in South America, so the monitoring group and volunteers will also continue to look for new nest structures and check historical nesting sites for new activity.
Kites nest near the top of tall trees, usually cypress or slash pines, but on Sanibel, the tallest trees are typically Australian pines. Australian pines (Casuarina spp.) are not as sturdy as their preferred nesting trees so there is some concern that kite nests may be damaged or destroyed during heavy winds.

We have a lot to learn through this new collaboration, including what makes Sanibel such a desirable nesting location for these birds!

If there is a swallow-tailed kite nest near you, or you suspect there may be a pair nesting nearby, reach out to us at Remember to always observe nesting birds from a respectful distance of at least 100 feet. Click here to learn more at the ARCI website.
Second Issue of SCCF Magazine Available Online

The spring issue of SCCF’s magazine, Connecting You to Nature, explores several issues that impact the islands and Southwest Florida: planning for climate change and sea level rise by building coastal resiliency; international turtle trafficking and how Sanibel’s prized species are being monitored and safeguarded; tips for protecting shorebirds and sea turtles during their nesting seasons; and SCCF research to understand the chronic effects of brevetoxins on nesting sea turtles.

The magazine also includes information on SCCF’s “Be A Life Saver” campaign to educate beach visitors in partnership with local resorts, and the goal of a collaborative, three-year project to restore the Hemp Key rookery’s mangrove canopy and oyster reef habitat.

The magazine was mailed to SCCF members and island-wide on Sanibel and Captiva last week. SCCF is grateful for Bailey’s General Store and Uhler & Vertich Financial Planners’ co-sponsorship of the Spring 2021 issue. Thank you for sharing our mission and vision of connecting our islanders, members, and readers to nature.

Connecting You to Nature was launched this year to share information and features centered on the foundation’s core pillars of land, water, policy and advocacy, education, and wildlife. Please share the digital version of the magazine Connecting You to Nature Spring 2021 with family, friends, and neighbors who share your passion for conserving and protecting this island paradise.
April is Water Conservation Month!

April is normally the last month of South Florida’s dry season, when water needs are most acute. The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has declared April as Water Conservation Month to highlight the importance of conserving water.

Over the next 20 years, demand for water in South Florida is projected to increase by 15 percent annually. Locally, Island Water Association has reported water consumption data is beginning to far exceed historical trendline projections; the data suggests increased usage may be attributed to escalating turf and landscape irrigation. Current and projected demands could be reduced by using water more efficiently through conservation measures.

One of the biggest commitments residents and property owners can make is to properly manage irrigation. To help conserve water on Sanibel and protect freshwater resources, the city council adopted Water Conservation Ordinance No 20-001 last year. Established yards normally only need to be irrigated up to twice per week, so the local ordinance permits irrigation two days per week (based upon your property address:

  • Odd addresses on Mondays and Thursdays
  • Even addresses on Tuesdays and Fridays

To prevent water loss through evapotranspiration, which occurs at a higher rate during the hottest parts of the day, irrigation is not permitted between the hours of 9am to 5pm.

Residents and property owners should also consider installing low-flow sprinkler heads on new and existing systems. Low-flow sprinkler heads use less water while delivering water to plant roots more effectively, so environmentally friendly homeowners save money.

The most effective way to reduce irrigation is to select native plants for your landscape. Native plants are adapted to the local climate and environment, so they require little to no irrigation or fertilizer while providing excellent habitat and forage for wildlife such as birds and butterflies. Consider replacing turf grass with native groundcovers to lessen the need for irrigation.

Visit the SCCF Native Landscapes & Garden Center for guidance and plants, and click here for a list of native landscape plants suitable for Sanibel.

Working together as a community, island residents can take simple measures to ensure everyone has access to safe and affordable potable water. Learn more about what you can do indoors and outdoors to help conserve water with these SFWMD tips.
SCCF's Newest (& Youngest) Snow-Shoveling Member
Please join us in saluting 12-year-old Caden, a superstar in the next generation of young conservationists.

Caden recently made a decision to donate his hard-earned income of $70 to SCCF. The reason his donation was particularly hard to come by is because it was payment for shoveling snow for his neighbors last winter. Not an easy job at all!

Beyond his generosity, Caden also took the time to draft a very thoughtful cover letter. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did.

Caden, what you wrote about SCCF also applies to you:

“You are amazing! Keep it up!”

Thanks to you from all of us at SCCF!
Meet the Natives:
Coral Honeysuckle

It's always a welcome surprise when the peachy-red blooms of the coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens var.) start to appear. Dangling on the end of twining stems, many pollinators are drawn to these blooms’ nectar, including butterflies and hummingbirds.

By late summer and fall, small red berries appear and become food for local birds, especially favored by cardinals. This vine is happiest when it has the support of a structure, such as a fence or a trellis, to twine around, and will tolerate some shade and drought.
SCCF's Native Landscapes & Garden Center at the Bailey Homestead is open Monday through Thursday, 10am to 3pm. We will also continue to offer contactless deliveries and curbside pickup. Simply place your order online by midnight on Tuesday for pickup or delivery that Wednesday.

Please email our Garden Center Assistant Sue Ramos at with any questions or requests.

SCCF members will get their discount by entering this promo code: SCCFMBR10 
Students Document Seasonal Changes in Pick Preserve

Fourth-grade students from The Sanibel School observed and documented nature's seasonal and cyclical changes within SCCF's Pick Preserve with SCCF Educator Richard Finkel last week.  

They were excited to see how seasonal changes in Florida differ from the seasonal changes that occur in more northern and temperate climate zones and are featured in textbooks.  

Students were amazed at the obvious change in the habitat off SCCF's Pick Preserve boardwalk where the low water level quickly caught their attention. They remembered how high the water level was on their Pick Preserve field trip in the fall when they were able to sample and document freshwater macro-invertebrates right off the boardwalk.  

The students enjoyed exploring the nature trail and observing, documenting and writing about the subtle changes found within Sanibel's interior wetlands and mid-island ridges. They keenly noted the variety of micro habitats including soils, shady and sunny areas, undersides of leaves, daily night and day cycles alongside the more obvious seasonal changes. 
SCCF's Pick Preserve, featuring a nature trail and boardwalk, is located directly across the street from The Sanibel School making it an ideal setting for outdoor education and the opportunity to incorporate environmental science into curriculum goals.
2021 Florida Legislature Session: Week 7

The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to end on April 30, and there will be a flurry of activity in the final weeks. Bills of interest that advanced last week:
Growth Management: HB 421 and HB 1101 –Relief from Burdens on Real Property Rights were presented together as a combined bill package that clarifies definitions in the Bert J. Harris Property Rights Protection Act. Opponents say it will allow property owners to seek protections dating back to the time of adoption of any ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy rather than at the point of enforcement as it is now. These bills are expected to have a major impact on local comprehensive land-use planning efforts. These bills passed by a vote of 14-5 and move to the full House. Senate version, SB 1876, is on its last committee stop. These bills were the focus of SCCF’s April 14 Action Alert on “Oppose Harmful Land Use Bills.” Thank you to SCCF supporters who contacted lawmakers to voice concerns about these harmful bills. 
Ecosystem Restoration: HB 783 – Racketeering of Aquatic and Wild Animal Life revises the definition of "racketeering activity" to include certain actions relating to wild animal life, freshwater aquatic life, and marine life. The bill passed 18-0 and heads to full House for a vote. The identical Senate version, SB 776, has already passed the full Senate. 
Water Quality/Growth Management: After passing the full Senate, SB 100-Highway Projects (MCORES partial repeal) was voted on favorably by the House Appropriations Committee and has been added to the second reading calendar for the full House. This bill is positive news for Southwest Florida’s environment but continues to call for toll road expansions in the northern and central corridors of Florida with potential impacts to pristine natural areas. While this iteration of the bill has a positive outcome for Southwest Florida, SCCF continues to advocate for strong growth management policies to protect dwindling natural resources throughout the state. 
Please visit the 2021 SCCF Legislative Tracker for an easy guide to the environmental legislation filed this session. 
Join Green Readers for Paving Paradise

The Green Readers, SCCF's nature-based book club, is reading Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss by Craig Pittman and Matthew Wait this month. Pick it up today and join the Green Readers for a discussion on Tuesday, May 4, at 7 pm.

With the recent changes that allow the State of Florida, rather than the federal government, to approve dredge-and-fill wetlands permits, this book is a timely selection by SCCF’s Environmental Policy Department.

Carl Hiassen says of the book, "This is an exhaustive, timely, and devastating account of the destruction of Florida’s wetlands, and the disgraceful collusion of government at all levels. It’s an important book that should be read by every voter, every taxpayer, every parent, every Floridian who cares about saving what’s left of this precious place.”

You can follow along with ongoing discussion by joining The Green Reader's Facebook group.

Register in advance to join the Zoom book discussion on Tuesday, May 4 at 7pm. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Recent Rains Mean More Turtles on Our Roads
Thanks to our former SCCF Trustee Robin Krivanek for sharing such a quintessential Sanibel experience!

On April 8 while driving east on West Gulf Drive, there was a dark lump in the middle of the road — a turtle. I stopped and oncoming traffic stopped, and I moved the turtle to the side of the road. No traffic moved until I was safely back in my car.

The next morning as I started to turn into the street to The Sanctuary Golf Club clubhouse, there was a police car with all lights flashing at the side of the road guarding a large soft-shelled turtle (species pictured here) in the road.

Shortly later, on Sanibel-Captiva Road both lines of traffic were stopped and a man appeared to be standing in the middle of the road. I realized he was pacing very slowly beside a gopher tortoise crossing the road. Again the drivers were very patient and no one moved till both lanes were clear.

Here’s a big shout out of thanks to all you wonderful Sanibel drivers!

Robin Krivanek, Sanibel
(Letter to the Editor, published in the Islander/Island Reporter on April 20)

Enjoy the Ocean with Others Through OTP

Through monthly paddling meetups on local waters, Ocean Tribe Paddling (OTP) Club members gather on paddleboards and kayaks to enjoy the ocean together. Paddling in San Carlos Bay, the mangrove bayou at Bowman’s Beach, and through the winding canals of Sanibel, paddlers set out each month to experience the local wildlife Sanibel has to offer.  

Over the last two years, OTP has grown to more than 50 active members who come from all walks of life. At any given paddle, you may find retired Sanibel snowbirds, veterans, teachers, environmental activists, and professional photographers. Despite coming from vastly different backgrounds, all members share a love for paddling and the marine ecosystem of Southwest Florida. Getting out on the water together has created a community of like-minded individuals who enjoy exploring the water in good company. 

OTP welcomes couples and solo paddlers. OTP Coordinator Kealy McNeal said paddling events are typically split about 50/50 between couples and individuals. “I have heard from many of the members who come solo that they lack the confidence to paddle by themselves and enjoy paddling in a group, not only for community but for safety,” she said.

This winter and spring, OTP members have been hitting the waters all over Sanibel—with some trips more adventurous than others. McNeal shared a highlight from a recent paddle at Bunche Beach. “The wind was howling on the bay and we had to take a slight detour,” McNeal explained. “As we deviated from the planned route, we decided to beach our boats on the exposed sand flats and search for critters. We found giant lightning whelks and tons of worm egg sacs. I think everyone’s favorite part of the paddle was exploring the sand flats and learning a little marine biology.”

OTP paddles are scheduled on varying days of the week at different times of the day to allow multiple opportunities for members to attend. McNeal chooses locations around Sanibel to explore at different times of day. “We paddle Sanibel’s East End canals at night to see the glowing bioluminescence and San Carlos Bay in the morning to catch a great sunrise,” said McNeal. 

Each OTP paddle offers new adventures, different locations to explore, and great camaraderie.  

To learn more about Ocean Tribe Paddlers, watch this informative video! Or contact 
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