Mitigation, fixing, future planning

After having read up much about the shark tagging and conservation work that has been happening in Florida and having Erik Neugaard’s name pop up a couple of times, it was a great honour to get to meet the man in person in his portfolio as the Environmental Program Manager at Port Everglades Department of Broward County. It’s amazing to hear about the dozens of environmental work he is on to at the Port, that involved manatees, Least Terns, sharks, corals, mangroves, iguanas etc…just about everything, we reckon.

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Here’s an area just outside the office and along the canal, that Erik is clearing and adding gravel to just so that it becomes a safe habitat for the Least Terns to nest at. some traps were also laid for the invasive iguana species as they can be pretty harmful predators to the sensitive Terns. It’s never easy to have to hear about extermination of a life, the invasive iguanas in this case, but when done humanely and we know it is necessary in the name of science, it is something that I know I have to come to terms with and support.

It was heartening to get to help out in the clearing of the Sable ferns, the Australian Pine Tree (invasive as well) and the seagrape tree, over the weekend, with Erik. And, we got to spot a manatee in the canal! I learnt that the manatee has a very different type of caudal tail from a dugong and hence it wasn’t the same creature by a different name. The paddle-like tail of the manatee sure makes it easy to be mistaken for a mermaid, especially when they surface for air with such grace.

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Florida has lost a fair bit of its mangroves too but much work is being done to restore and regrow them, as well as designate mangrove protection laws and conservation sites. The port area has red mangroves regrown in the area and despite it being monoculture rehabilitation, the red mangroves are known to be excellent for soil stabilisation and as nursing grounds  for myriad marine species.

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And here are some rocks that would be use for building artificial reefs for coral regeneration. The rocks were massive and cement is used instead of epoxy here. I went through a coral repropagation course in Terengganu, Malaysia before where epoxy smaller substrates were used to create coral nurseries, but in the Florida context, bigger boulders and stronger adhesive like cement, needs to be used instead as the currents are much stronger. (the big boulders are on the far left in the picture below as I missed a better shot)

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Definitely inspired by the drive and passion of Erik in the work he does tirelessly, though it is also a little depressing to hear that too much damage has been done in fast developing Florida and that it was picked up too late that much mitigation and fixing work on the marine and environmental front needed to happen now, such that future planning has no time to happen, but better late than never and it is definitely great that Broward County is quick at getting down to fixing things in so many varied aspects.

Kathy Xu

Singapore (Broward County, Florida)

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