For Immediate Release: Sept. 24, 2011
DEP CELEBRATES NATIONAL ESTUARIES DAY
~ Family and educational activities celebrate "Where Rivers Meet the Sea"~
Freshwater inflows make for lush islands at Rookery Bay Estuarine Research Reserve.
TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) celebrated National Estuaries Day with special events at the state's three National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERR) and the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves (IRLAP). The celebrations focused on the importance of Florida’s estuaries – the valuable natural areas where rivers meet the sea.
Among the most productive ecosystems on earth, estuaries serve as nurseries for fish and shellfish and provide vital nesting and feeding grounds for coastal birds, sea turtles and marine mammals. Governor Rick Scott issued a proclamation declaring Sept. 24, 2011, as National Estuaries Day, in recognition of the important role estuaries play to both Florida’s environment and economy.
“I encourage our residents and visitors to enjoy these unique ecosystems throughout the year, and to help preserve and protect them,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “Florida's estuaries are vital to coastal communities, providing millions of dollars through tourism, recreational sport fishing and boating.”
The country’s 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves celebrate National Estuaries Day each year to bring attention to these beautiful coastal environments. DEP’s Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA) hosted events at the state’s three NERRs to give visitors an opportunity to learn more about Florida’s valuable estuarine ecosystems and what Florida’s citizens can do to help protect them.
Visitors to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas NERR enjoyed a guided archeological bike ride, guided kayak trips led by Ripple Effects, a pirate invasion, hands-on science and live music by the Saltwater Cowgirls. All event proceeds will be used to support the education, research and stewardship programs of the Reserve.
The Rookery Bay NERR provided visitors with half-hour boat trips through the Rookery Bay Reserve, half-hour guided kayak trips along Henderson Creek, tours of the science labs, marine critters touch tank, guided trail walks, and face painting as part of the festivities.
The Apalachicola NERR event took place Friday, Sept. 23, and included activities such as live reptile demonstrations, environmental scavenger hunts, simulated oyster tonging (oyster harvesting) and a wacky waterfront race. The Apalachicola NERR’s focus was on students and education.
DEP’s Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves (IRLAP) hosted a planting event at Brevard County Spoil Island BC47, located in Grant, on Wednesday, Sept. 21. The event was coordinated by the Shoreline Restoration Project, a grant-funded project administered by IRLAP’s office. Volunteers from IRLAP and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program planted salt marsh grasses and red mangroves along the critically eroding island.