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Spring 2017                                                                                                                                               www.tbep.org
Underwater videos offer peek at life in a rare bay habitat 

Scientists are using remotely operated underwater cameras to spy on fish living on rare "hard bottom" habitats in the bay. 

These natural and artificial habitats include brightly colored sponges, soft corals, fossilized corals, rubble, and limestone ledges. They support a diverse but little-studied community of invertebrates and fish, including recreationally important groupers and snappers.
A spadefish checks out the bait cage. FWC photo.

Tampa Bay's natural hard bottom habitats are scarce, and found mostly in lower Tampa Bay. Some mapping has been conducted as part of underwater pipeline, bridge construction and cable projects, as well as by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. A 2-year project now underway is examining fish species found in these unique structural habitats, many reminiscent of low-relief reefs found in the Florida Keys.

The fisheries assessment is being conducted by scientists with FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute with an $80,000 grant from the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund (TBERF).  They are using old-fashioned hook-and-line sampling, along with an innovative contraption called a Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV). The BRUV holds an underwater camera and a cage suspended on a pole with smelly bait that lures fish within camera range.

 The Baited Underwater Remote Video, above, and a  curious Smooth Puffer, below. FWC photos.
The FWC team is cataloging and comparing fish communities in both natural and artificial hard bottom reefs, at various depths and locations. 

Initial deployment of the BRUV has revealed some unusual residents, such as a Smooth Puffer -- a fish more commonly found offshore. The camera also is documenting valuable recreational species such as red grouper, gag grouper, gray snapper and black sea bass.

The overall goal of the research is to learn more about the relationship between nearshore and offshore habitats for recreationally important fish. This information will assist bay managers in better protecting and enhancing these habitats, which are not easily restored once damaged. 


Celebrate Spring with our #LTBSpring Instagram Photo Contest

Spring is a great time to enjoy Tampa Bay -- paddling, fishing, hiking, wildlife-watching and spectacular sunsets (or sunrises, for you early birds)!

Upload photos to Instagram showing how Tampa Bay inspires you this Spring and you could win an Explore Tampa Bay prize pack featuring kayak rentals, tickets to The Florida Aquarium and more!

Here's how it works:
1)    Shoot a photo or video while you are on, in or around Tampa Bay.
2)   Upload your photo or video to Instagram and tag it #LTBSpring by April 22 
Anyone may participate.  Users earn one contest entry for every photo or video tagged.

NOTE:  The photos you submit must be your own.  Photos must be taken in Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco or Pinellas counties. Be sure to include location when you tag photos on Instagram.

#Love Tampa Bay is a community engagement campaign to inspire people to  DO MORE  to love the bay;  THINK ABOUT  how we depend upon a healthy bay and our connections to it; and  SHARE THE LOVE  with others

Follow Love Tampa Bay on  Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or on the web at http://lovetampabay.org/

TBEP Director Honored For Building Community Support for Bay Restoration

Holly Greening, center, with LWVHC President Sandy Sroka (seated) and, left to right, Rick Garrity, DeWayne Mallory from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor's staff, Pinellas Commissioner Charlie Justice, Manatee Commissioner Robin Disabatino, and Tampa Councilman Mike Suarez
The League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County bestowed its 2017 Sydney and Thalia Potter Civic Leadership Award on T BEP Executive Director Holly Greening at a luncheon in February. 

The award honors an individual who has "improved government, protected the environment or enhanced the community through civic leadership." It is named for a Tampa couple, Sydney and Thalia Potter, longtime civic activists who tirelessly advocated for protection of the Hillsborough River.

An original member of the Estuary Program's staff, first as its Senior Scientist, Holly has now led the regional partnership for a decade. During this time, Tampa Bay has achieved record-setting w ater clarity and seagrass recovery, working with a diverse partnership of seven local cities and counties; regional, state and federal agencies; citizens, the private sector and the scientific community, 

Holly knew she wanted to be a marine scientist from the age of 10, inspired by tales of undersea adventures chronicled in a book called "Lady with a Spear," by Dr. Eugenie Clark, who came to be known as the "Shark Lady."

Holly was introduced by Rick Garrity, former head of Hillsborough's Environmental Protection Commission,  and honored by several presenters, including Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice, Manatee County Commissioner Robin Disabatino, Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez and a representative of Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

Justice elected Chair of TBEP Policy Board

Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice is TBEP's new Policy Board Chair
Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice was elected Chair of TBEP's 10-member Policy Board at quarterly meetings in February. He previously served as Vice Chair and will serve a two-year term. Commissioner Justice replaces Manatee County Commissioner Robin Disabatino, who remains on the  Policy Board.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White was elected Vice Chair.

The Policy Board is composed of elected officials from the four counties and three largest cities surrounding the bay, as well as representatives from the Southwest Florida Water Management District's Governing Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The Board sets policy for TBEP and provides oversight of TBEP's budget and activities.

Regional Law Enforcement Workshop Focuses on Manatees
Seagrass is the most important food for manatees in Tampa Bay. Photo courtesy USGS Sirenia Project.
Some 50 marine enforcement officers from around the bay attended a March workshop on manatee protection in the bay. The half-day training was coordinated by TBEP's Manatee Awareness Coalition (MAC), an alliance of local governments, agencies and organizations working to protect manatees and their habitats. 

Nearly 30 officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) attended, along with Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas Sheriff's deputies, officers from local police departments and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. 

Participants learned about existing manatee protection zones in Tampa Bay, and new slow-speed zones being posted now in Western Pinellas County. The new Pinellas zones cover parts of the ICW and several shallow-water areas with high manatee usage from Tarpon Springs to Fort DeSoto Park. 
Officers received a refresher on manatee protection laws and a heads-up on new slow speed zones in western Pinellas County.

The workshop also highlighted the important role on-water officers play in manatee rescue and recovery.
Support for the training came from FWC's Law Enforcement, Imperiled Species Management, and Rescue/Recovery team; Pinellas County; Tampa Bay Watch; UF/IFAS Extension (Florida Sea Grant); and Save The Manatee Club.

Audubon Florida is conducting a similar training session on bird protection in Tampa Bay in April. That workshop is supported by a grant from the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund. 


Comprehensive Management Plan for Tampa Bay Approved
Interactive Web Version On The Way

TBEP's Management and Policy Board recently gave final approval to a major update of Charting The Course: The Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) for Tampa Bay.  The extensive revision began more than two years ago.

The CCMP contains 39 specific actions to address existing and emerging issues critical to bay health. This blueprint guides regional research, restoration and education priorities for TBEP and its partner organizations for the next decade. 

Ten broad Action Plans address key issues like Water and Sediment Quality; Fish and Wildlife; Bay Habitats; and Public Involvement. Among several new actions are strategies to address or better understand sewer overflows, microplastics, and public access.

The CCMP is being designed as an interactive e-zine that will be posted on our website this summer.

Volunteers span the watershed to stamp out invasives, 
pick up trash and plant natives

Click arrow to watch volunteers at work in Safety Harbor
Our bu
sy "Gi ve A Day For The Bay" workday season continues, with the next workday coming Saturday, April 15 at the Blackthorn Memorial area along theSkyway Bridge, where volunteers are needed to pick up trash.

Recent workdays saw our volunteers removing invasive plants at Boyd Hill Nature Park in St. Petersuburg; planting native coastal plants at the Safety Harbor Waterfront Park; and removing invasives and planting natives at Lake Lisa Park in Port Richey. Wow, we are spreading our "Give A Day For The Bay" love all over this year!

"Give A Day For The Bay" is a series of half-day workdays at area parks and preserves, in partnership with local parks and conservation departments and community non-profits. Volunteers perform a variety of tasks, including removing invasive plants, building oyster reefs, clearing trails and planting salt marsh grasses, wildflowers or other native species. All volunteers receive lunch served with a generous helping of gratitude for their help in restoring Tampa Bay.

View photos from our volunteer workdays on our Flicker photostream.  

Join our volunteer team by signing up here.                          


We're All Stars Again!

TBEP has been named a 2016 Constant Contact All Star for successful use of email marketing to communicate with our audience.

This is the sixth year in a row TBEP has received this annual award, recognizing the most successful 10 percent of Constant Contact 's customer base of small businesses and non-profits. The designation considers factors like email open rates, use of social sharing tools and content that is relevant to the subscriber base.  

TBEP strives to follow ethical email marketing practices. We will never share your email address, and make it easy for you to select the type of information you want to receive, and to unsubscribe if you no longer want to hear from us (but we hope you do!).  
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About the Tampa Bay Estuary Program


The Tampa Bay Estuary Program is an intergovernmental partnership dedicated to restoring and protecting Tampa Bay, Florida's largest open-water estuary. TBEP is one of 28 "Estuaries of National Significance" designated by Congress.


Our Policy Board is comprised of representatives from Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas counties; the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater; the Southwest Florida Water Management District; the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.