July 2006, Vol. 18, No.7


Everglades Restoration To Begin Along Kissimmee River

Land along the Kissimmee River in the Florida Everglades will undergo restorative efforts, according to a March press release issued by The Nature Conservancy (Arlington, Va.).

The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental preservation, purchased 666 ha (1646 ac) of land beside the old Kissimmee River, including a section of Paradise Run, to advance the goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the press release says. Paradise Run is prime habitat and a top priority for protection under the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project of the CERP. The site is part of the original Kissimmee River floodplain and presents a unique opportunity for habitat restoration. The Nature Conservancy bought the land on behalf of the South Florida Water Management District for transfer at a later date.

The property is located northwest of Lake Okeechobee, the largest freshwater lake in the southeastern United States and a central component of the interconnected aquatic ecosystem in south Florida. The Nature Conservancy eventually will sell the land to the South Florida Water Management District when funds become available.

“The site supports several federally listed threatened or endangered species, such as bald eagle, snail kite, crested caracara and wood stork, and supports 20 state listed species, including many wading birds,” said Steve Schubert of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This is a golden opportunity for ecosystem restoration.”  

Expedition Discovers Marine Treasures in Caribbean

Scientists on a 2-week expedition in the Caribbean found new species of fish, seaweed, and other ocean life that may make the case for preserving a threatened area. The January expedition took place along the Saba Bank Atoll, an underwater mountain 250 km (155.4 mi) southeast of Puerto Rico in the Dutch Windward Islands, according to a press release issued by Conservation International (CI; Washington, D.C.).

In a series of dives, scientists from CI, the Netherlands Antilles government, and the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History found scores more fish species than previously known in the region, along with vast beds of seaweed, including a dozen or more possible new species. 
Among the apparent new fish species found were two types of gobi, while the total number of fish species recorded reached 200, compared to fewer than 50 before the expedition was undertaken, the press release notes.

The scientists’ discoveries make Saba Bank a prime candidate for designation as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area by the International Maritime Organization (London), according to the news release. Threats to ocean life are also threats to the local population, the release states.

A petroleum trans-shipment depot on neighboring St. Eustatius Island causes significant marine traffic, including oil supertankers in the area around the atoll, the news release says. The fragile ecosystems of Saba Bank get damaged by anchors and chains of ships that wait at the atoll to avoid anchoring fees in territorial waters of St. Eustatius, the release says.

The large ships also endanger local fishermen of Saba in their small boats, forcing them away from traditional fishing grounds and causing the loss of fish pots that become so-called “ghost traps” that harm fish stocks, according to CI.

For more information on CI’s work, see www.conservation.org.