The 2020 Bays and Bayous Symposium Steering Committee is announcing that it has made the decision to make the symposium virtual. The decision came among COVID-19 concerns, including social distancing and employer travel restrictions.
The symposium will be held in an online format Dec. 1-3 and will not take place at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, as initially planned.
The call for abstracts is currently open, and tracks include disasters and disruptions, healthy coastal ecosystems, living marine resources, resilient communities and economies, and water quality and quantity.
Oral presentations will be submitted as 12-minute pre-recorded talks.
The typical poster presentations will be replaced with pre-recorded three-minute, three-slide lightning talks. More presentation details will be released after abstracts are accepted.
The deadline for submitting abstracts is Friday, Sept. 11.
You can keep up with any symposium changes through the event website at http://baysandbayous.org.
Notice for Request for Statements of Qualification (RFQ) Lower Fish River Restoration Phase I - (AL)
08/24/2020 - Request for Qualifications Amendment. Please note that a clarification has been made under Section 3, Description of the Team, Item 3.4: 3.4 Resumes for each key individual on the team and identification of that person’s role. List any education, registrations that may be relevant. *Resumes will not count toward the fifteen (15) page limit.* This update is also acknowledged under the Submission Requirements on Page 7. The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) (Owner) requests firms’ qualifications for professional engineering services for an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Agreement. Request for Qualifications allows MBNEP to pre-qualify vendors for specific professional services. In order to assist with new projects, MBNEP will assess the selected firms based on qualification as necessary for a given project. This RFQ process will be used to select up to three contractors or contractor teams who can successfully perform these services on an agreed-upon schedule.
MBNEP is seeking qualified engineers, land surveyors, geoscience, or other similar professionals through this competitive, qualification-based selection process to develop engineering and design documents and secure permits to stabilize an unnamed tributary (locally known as Spring Branch) to Fish River in the community of Marlow and up to five additional stream segments in the Lower Fish River Watershed (LFRW) yet to be determined. The project will employ inquiry, monitoring, engineering analyses, and design necessary to obtain permits and oversee construction of projects to stem deterioration and loss of natural function threatening downstream intertidal fisheries habitat. Interested firms should respond with a letter of interest, and Statements of Qualification as outlined in the Consultant Selection Procedure, Section A. Statements will be received until 4:00 p.m. CDT on Wednsday, September 09, 2020. To read and download the full proposal click here.
Founded in 1929 in the waning days of the roaring 20s, the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo has a rich cultural history dating back almost a century. The event was the inspiration of a group of friends, Mobile businessmen, who saw the potential for Mobile to be the home of a premier fishing event on the Gulf Coast. Born of a big idea, for two decades the friends ran the event, planting seeds for what would become the largest saltwater fishing event in the world.
It would be shortly after the end of WWII, in 1948, when the Junior Chamber of Commerce (known to everyone as the Mobile Jaycees) would pick up the ball and transform the ADSFR into what it is today. In 2011, the Guinness Book of World Records certified ADSFR as not only the largest, but the oldest fishing tournament in the world. The Rodeo, now, isn’t just the largest and oldest. It has earned a host of other superlatives: Most anglers (at more than 3,000); the highest number of participating boats; the most awards; and the greatest number of prizes for the most fish species. The combined value of its prizes annually surpasses one million dollars.
ADSFR, 1949. From: The Press Register
Also each year, one participant, whose ticket is drawn randomly, wins a Contender sport fishing boat, motor, and trailer. Remarkably, the incredibly lucky 2009 winner of the Contender, Joe Dear, who, like everyone, sat out the Rodeo-less 2010 due to the oil spill, won a second Contender when his ticket was drawn AGAIN in 2011.
And it isn’t just lucky fishermen bringing in the big bucks. In an average year, the thousands of competitors bring even more spectators, some 75,000, and, with all of them, tourist dollars that help sustain the Town of Dauphin Island and southern Alabama tourist economies. The Rodeo generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue to the State every year.
Part of the draw to the Rodeo is the abundance of fish in the Gulf, but it’s also the unparalleled variety of species. Competitors’ catches are harvested from the Rodeo’s 45,000 square mile fishing grounds, called the Fertile Crescent, or what The New Yorker magazine dubbed, affectionately, “the fishery piñata of the Gulf of Mexico.” Appropriately, the Rodeo recognizes the diversity of this unique resource. Whereas many fishing tournaments give prizes for a handful of fish categories, the ADSFR awards winners for upwards of 30 different species.
With so much prize money at stake, it stands to reason that the history of the Rodeo has included a legacy of tall tales and crafty anglers trying to get a leg up on the next boat. In fact, on every Thursday night preceding the Friday start of the Rodeo, there is the Liars’ Contest, where anglers spin yarns, seeking the honor of having told the best fishing lie.
That’s why Rodeo judges have to have a sharp eye. One of the most entertaining true Rodeo stories involves a competitor who flew with his catch up from Costa Rica! It was then that the ADSFR created a geographical boundary for the competition. There is also the one where a clergyman brought his fish to be weighed, only to have lead weights escape the fish and tumble all over the floor. Almost unbelievably, the Rodeo has even taken the drastic step of implementing polygraph tests to root out deception. This has led to at least one winner being disqualified. Consent to undergo a lie detector is located right there in the fine print when competitors buy their tickets. All in a weekend’s fun, right?
ADSFR, 1964. Jack Davis (left), Ray Walker (center), Billy G. Barfoot (right). From: The Press Register
Given the location of the nearby Dauphin Island Sea Lab, perhaps it is not surprising that over the years, the importance of the Rodeo has grown from both cultural and recreational to also include the scientific. In the early 80s,, the ADSFR began a relationship with the Museum of Natural History in New York City. The Museum, one of the most famous in the world, is particularly known for skeletons. When visitors enter the Museum fronting Central Park on the City's Upper West Side, they are greeted, Jurassic Park style, by the hulking skeleton of a huge Tyrannosaurus rex. The Museum is home to another famous skeleton collection. It comprises more than 2,500 fish skeletons, representing more than 250 species, all gathered from ADSFR anglers over the years. This incredible catalogue of fishes is considered among the most comprehensive and preeminent in the world.
The Museum’s work lives on today and the scientific impact of the Rodeo continues to broaden in scope. Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the famed ocean advocacy organization, Oceana, began testing both fish and fisherman for contaminants, assembling a treasure trove of data to help inform management of fisheries and fossil fuel extraction practices.
The Rodeo also supports the local scientific community by funding two graduate scholarships in Marine Science at the University of South Alabama: the Robert L. Shipp Award for outstanding Ph.D. student and the Gareth Nelson Award for excellence in master’s studies. The Nelson Award is named after the famed ichthyologist who pioneered the Museum of Natural History’s work with the ADSFR, while the Shipp Award is named after long-time ADSFR stalwart, head judge, and USA marine scientist, Professor Emeritus Bob Shipp.
ADSFR, 1965. From: The Press Register
As you might have already realized from your time on the coast, the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo is a wonderful example of how our heritage and culture, dependent upon healthy ecosystems and fisheries, are woven into the fabric of our lives. Heritage and culture are among the six values - along with beaches and shorelines, fish and wildlife, water quality, access, and resilience - that the MBNEP has determined all of us in coastal Alabama celebrate.
We enjoyed the Rodeo with our grandparents back in the day, and we want to enjoy a Rodeo with the same great qualities with our grandchildren in the future. Nothing ensures we’ll protect our coastal environment like an appreciation of our heritage and culture. We all hope to be able to do things the way our gramps did them. Let’s enjoy and support the Rodeo, as we ensure the protection and conservation of our coastal habitats and fisheries for years to come. Our grandchildren depend upon it.
For more history of ADSFR and roundup of this year’s winners please visit: www.adsfr.com
Restoration Project Manager, Jason Kudulis, checks out the restoration site at the tip of Mon Louis Island to see how it fared flooding from Tropical Storm Cristobal.
Want to know how COVID 19 has affected MBNEP's work?
From Comprehensive Watershed Planning; to shore, stream, and wetland restoration; to invasive species management; to waterborne litter and trash eradication; Mobile Bay National Estuary Program is demonstrating resilience in action, keeping all our programs alive and thriving.
- Watershed Management Planning
- Three Mile Creek: Twelve Mile Creek Restoration
- Langan Park Lake: Invasive Species Eradication
- Litter Abatement Programs
- Litter Gitter Gap Funding
- Prichard Rain Barrels
- D’Olive Watershed Restoration
- Deer River: Shoreline Stabilization/Marsh Protection
- Mon Louis Island Northern Tip
- Fowl River Restoration
- Lower Fish River Restoration
The Mobile County Commission receives award from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to construct a Living Shorelines Project along the Dauphin Island Causeway
On March 19, 2020, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced new Alabama projects to be funded by the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF) and designed to remedy harm and reduce risk of future harm to natural resources affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Mobile County Commission will receive more than $9.39 million to complete engineering design to construct habitat-friendly breakwater structures and create intertidal marsh habitat on the east side of the Dauphin Island Parkway/State Route 193. This project will create and protect critical coastal marsh habitat; enable natural processes to maintain nearshore habitats; and reduce the erosive forces of tidal action, wave energy, and storms to the shoreline and vulnerability of the only access route between south Mobile County and Dauphin Island. This is a large scale restoration project that will beneficially use material dredged from the Mobile Ship Channel to build emergent marsh habitat.
Initial planning and design activities were co-funded through NFWF’s National Coastal Resilience Program and the GEBF, while design completion, permit acquisition, and construction implementation will be co-funded through NFWF’s Emergency Coastal Resilience Fund (ECRF).
A comprehensive watershed management plan for the complex of Mobile Bay’s western shore watersheds – Garrow’s Bend, Deer River, and Delchamps Bayou – is currently in development, with shoreline protection at the forefront of management recommendations. Meanwhile, this project addresses goals and objectives of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan’s five-year Ecosystem Restoration and Protection Strategy by improving ecosystem function and resilience through protection, restoration, and conservation of coastal Alabama shorelines. The CCMP, developed by over 200 Management Conference partners from federal, state, and local partners; businesses and industry; academia and citizen groups, is based on local input and supports local priorities that protect water quality, sustain populations of key living resources, manage vital habitats, mitigate human impacts, and build citizen stewardship. It provides a road map for estuarine resource management in Alabama. The MBNEP is a partner to the Mobile County Commission with roles in securing funding and project oversight.
The mission of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program is to provide the necessary tools and support community-based efforts to promote the wise stewardship of the quality and living resources of Alabama’s estuarine waters.
Dauphin Island Causway Grant Award Press Release (PDF, 3/19/2020, 312KB)
MBNEP's Tom Herder's guest column in the special 2020 Earth Day issue of Natural Awakenings.
Along the northern Gulf Coast, we face increased risk from climate change-related stressors, including warmer summers, winters, and waters; increasing incidences and durations of drought; increasing frequency and intensity of tropical weather events; and sea-level rise. The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) has made significant progress in assessing and raising awareness about the impacts of climate change across all Alabama coastlines.
Several initiatives recommended in the Three Mile Creek Watershed Management Plan (WMP) from 2014 have been implemented to address low-lying, traditionally underserved, minority communities that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts.
MLK Avenue Leadership Academy and Conservation Corps
In 2015, MBNEP partnered with the Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue Redevelopment Corporation to train “emerging and reluctant leaders” in environmental awareness, climate change vulnerability, leadership, communication and conflict resolution. After attending 10 two-hour training sessions, the 14 participants successfully encouraged the Mobile City Council to formally adopt the Three Mile Creek WMP and recommended that education and job training be used to connect young adults with environmental assets. This recommendation culminated in the creation of the pilot Coastal Alabama Conservation Corps in 2017.
Read more on Natural Awakenings Website
Toulmins Spring Branch Community Engagement The Coastal Alabama Conservation Corps program hired and trained under-employed, high-risk, young adults to implement smaller-scaled WMP implementation measures, such as clearing stormwater drainage infrastructure, controlling/eradicating invasive species, and providing credible community outreach. They also helped install rain barrels as the inception of the Prichard Rain Barrel Program to reduce runoff, educate residents about sources and mitigation of stormwater runoff, and provide a free source of non-potable water.
In 2015, MBNEP hired Kimberly Pettway of the University of South Alabama to lead an effort to engage Toulmins Spring Branch residents in community planning. The goal for the residents was to adapt to climate change impacts and build capacity for improving community resilience. Three community meetings were held to educate residents about the environment, causes of flooding and water pollution, and how hazards can increase due to the effects of climate change. The series concluded in an Ideas Festival to identify community assets in need of protection, offer ideas to reduce flooding, identify existing resources to increase resilience, explore opportunities to work with the City of Prichard to increase resilience, and identify community members willing to help.
Additionally, Dr. Tracie Sempier of Mississippi Alabama Sea Grant Consortium educated elected officials, state agency heads, and regional government administrators about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and Community Rating System. The insurance program (implemented by FEMA) provides federally backed flood insurance to communities that adopt minimum floodplain management requirements. The Community Rating System is an incentive program for the NFIP with goals to reduce flood losses, facilitate accurate insurance ratings, and promote the awareness of flood insurance to address vulnerabilities related to rising sea level. Dr. Sempier also led several coastal Alabama municipalities in developing Community Resilience Indices to examine their levels of preparation for storms and storm recovery.
Tom Herder is the Watershed Protection Coordinator at Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP). For more information on how the impacts of climate change are being addressed on the Gulf Coast, see MBNEP’s 2019-2023 Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan at or visit MobileBayNEP.com.
The Mobile Bay National Estuary receives award from NFWF Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund to restore conditions in and around Lower Fish River Watershed streams
On March 19, 2020, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced new Alabama projects to be funded by the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF) and designed to remedy harm and reduce risk of future harm to natural resources affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) will receive more than $6.54 million to address sediment and nutrient issues in the Lower Fish River Watershed, one of a complex of four coastal watersheds draining into Weeks Bay. Project activities will include planning, engineering and design, and permitting efforts to identify and develop solutions for six stormwater-impacted tributaries. The award will also fund engineering and design, permitting, and construction of a 1,650-linear-foot priority stream restoration project in the Marlow Community. This tributary runs south of and parallel to Baldwin County Road 32, passes under CR 9 near its intersection with CR 32, and drains into Fish River just downstream of the Fish River Bridge on CR 32. These issues were identified and restoration measures recommended in the Weeks Bay Watershed Management Plan, published in 2017 and funded through the NFWF GEBF.
Multiple tributaries within the Lower Fish River Watershed have been negatively impacted by severe erosion and nutrient enrichment in headwater areas, delivering silt and negatively impacting once-productive downstream seagrass beds and oyster reef habitats essential to coastal fishery health. Restoring and protecting priority streams and streambank corridors is vital to improving the overall water quality in this Watershed and its receiving waters in Weeks Bay. The overall project strategy will employ similar hybrid stream restoration techniques as those used to restore over two miles of degraded streams and 44 acres of floodplain and wetlands in the successful GEBF-funded D’Olive Watershed restoration project.
The MBNEP is guided by a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan developed by over 200 Management Conference partners from federal, state, and local partners; businesses and industry; academia and citizen groups. It is based on local input and supports local priorities that protect water quality, sustain populations of key living resources, manage vital habitats, mitigate human impacts, and build citizen stewardship. The CCMP provides a road map for estuarine resource management in Alabama through a watershed approach that prescribes watershed management planning for areas draining to specific water bodies – independent of geopolitical boundaries. This approach ensures restoration and protection projects are based in science and fit into a well-studied and structured overall management program.
The mission of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program is to provide the necessary tools and support community-based efforts to promote the wise stewardship of the quality and living resources of Alabama’s estuarine waters.
Lower Fish River Watershed
Pink indicates degraded streams
An article from our Spring 2020 Alabama Current connection
|Alabama Current Connection
Spring 2020 Vo. XIV, Issue 1
The Oyster: An Icon of Life on the Alabama Gulf Coast (PDF, 6.2MB)
Our guest columnist is Gage Swann, a senior Management student at the University of South Alabama, who pays bills by working at the Mobile Oyster Company, an off-bottom oyster aquaculture operation in the salty waters on the west end of Dauphin Island.
Q: OK, senior at USA, former offensive lineman at Huntingdon College, and recently licensed charter boat captain Gage Swann, how did you become involved in off-bottom oyster aquaculture?
A: Before I got into all those other things you mentioned, I was just a Theodore High School graduate looking for a summer job while waiting for my first semester at Huntingdon to begin. My dad was actually the person who recommended me looking into working for an oyster farm. Somewhere along the search, I got in contact with a man who managed an oyster farm out in the Bayou (La Batre), back when there was a co-op of farmers out the mouth of West Fowl River. He lined up a training day for me, and from that moment, I have been working in off-bottom oyster aquaculture. Since then I have joined the team and am currently working for Cullan Duke at the Mobile Oyster Company.
Q: Describe a typical workday at the Mobile Oyster Company Company.
A: Our days at the Mobile Oyster Company usually begin around 8:00, when my buddy Aaron, other team members, and I meet to finish our morning coffee and discuss the goals we want to have accomplished for the day.
Sometimes we have a perfect day on Dauphin Island, and we use those days to maximize the work we do caring for the oysters on the farm itself. Every oyster farmer has a few basic obligations to the farm to grow and maintain beautiful oysters.
The most important obligation is making sure you have enough oysters counted and ready for a harvest. Having these bags already made up a few days before hand helps harvest run smoothly and in a quick time frame, which is really important during the summertime.
Another task we do on nice calm days would be desiccating our oysters (by raising and flipping our cages). During the summertime, it is recommended we do this once a week or at least once every two weeks. This practice dries the outside of our equipment and the oysters to limit any sort of biofouling. Biofouling is basically growth of barnacles and algae, on our equipment and oysters. Flipping the cages is the reason our oysters come out so clean with so few barnacles or other growth on them.
The rest of our time on these types of days involves us splitting bags of growing seed oysters (to reduce bag density), so that the oysters do not overburden equipment with their increasing size and weight. We also spend time hand sorting and counting oysters for our harvest bags.
During the wintertime, we get really strong north winds which makes working the farm in our location too much of a risk. We spend these days repairing any broken equipment, like worn down oyster grow cages for example, and also servicing our work boat.
Q: What’s tougher, a mid-July work day or an early February?
A: In my opinion, I would rather have a mid-July workday every day of the year compared to the mid- February work days! This has almost everything to do with the type of weather trend our location is subject to in the wintertime. During the wintertime of year, it is almost guaranteed the water will be in the upper 50s, and we usually have more strong north winds too. This makes the tasks of getting in the water
to tend our oysters and driving the boat very difficult and uncomfortable. By the time summer comes around, we definitely become very thankful for the usual southerly flows of wind and the warm water.
Q: With regard to environmental issues, what stressors to wild oysters are oyster farmers able to avoid or control? What stressors present the major threats to farm-cultivated oysters?
I'm no expert on what has happened to our natural oysters reefs over the years but I do believe off-bottom oyster aquaculture helps avoid some of the obvious things that hurts the natural reefs.
- Oyster drills (the primary oyster predator) usually are not that big of a problem for us because of the fact our oysters stay in the top of the water column, rather than on the bottom.
- We are also able to avoid any issues with sediment covering oysters during big storms or from boat wakes, etc., again because we are at the top of the water column.
As to stressors for oyster farmers-
- Hurricanes and strong storms. These storms have the ability to take a toll on oyster farms and the equipment itself. Even when farmers don’t sink their gear, strong storm surge and currents can bury our bags on the bottom and also chafe our main lines.
- Water quality. Things like red tides and shutdowns due to high counts of sewage-related bacteria in the water are also hard to predict and leave us idle for many weeks.
Q: As a student in management, what are the biggest challenges to managing an oyster farm?
A: I think finding the right workers who can handle the types of conditions we have to work in is sometimes our biggest problem. Currently we have a really solid team, which I am thankful for, but in the past good, reliable help has been hard to find.
Q: What is most rewarding about oyster farming?
A: I particularly like seeing our customers post pictures of our oysters on social media or hearing from people who say it is the best oyster they ever tasted.
Q: So, USA Management student, should I invest in Alabama off-bottom oyster farming A operations?
Yes. This is a young industry in Alabama compared to other coastal areas in America, but in my opinion, the Gulf Coast and especially the central Gulf Coast has some of the richest waters for growing oysters. From the time I started five summers ago up until now, I have seen a lot of industry growth in Alabama and more people willing to give oyster aquaculture a try. They are all good people who, I think, can really make a name for the Alabama oyster nationwide. And if this doesn’t sell you, just come on down to Mobile Oyster Company and try one yourself.
Download the full Alabama Current Connection Spring 2020 Vo. XIV, Issue 1: The Oyster: An Icon of Life on the Alabama Gulf Coast (PDF, 6.2MB)