Current Connection Spring 2020 - The Oyster: An Icon of Life on the Alabama Gulf Coast

Commercial oyster men tonging oysters near Cedar Point.

The Oyster: An Icon of Life on the Alabama Gulf Coast

by Roberta Swann, Director, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program

One thing I have learned since moving to Alabama 20 years ago is this: you can’t beat the salty, creamy taste of an oyster grown in our waters. Wild or farmed, the oyster is an iconic representative
of life along the Alabama coast. They are central to its heritage and culture, providing food, work, and a way of life to many of the folks in Bon Secour, Bayou La Batre, and other coastal communities. Having grown up in coastal Massachusetts, eating oysters has always been a part of my life. It wasn’t until I moved to Dauphin Island that I discovered how good oysters could be and how important they are to the people who live and grew up here.

The state of our oyster fishery is a cause for concern, given dwindling wild populations. Alabama’s oyster reefs in Mobile Bay, Bon Secour Bay, around Cedar Point, and in Mississippi Sound are suffering. Harvests were historically low in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, and surveys revealed so few harvestable oysters that no harvest was opened in 2018-2019. The factors underlying the reduced productivity are discussed by Alabama Marine Resources Division Director Scott Bannon in this issue, along with three separate measures AMRD is undertaking to better manage wild oyster populations.

And yet, there is great work being done to bring Alabama-grown oysters back to our tables. Gulf oysters grow rapidly and can reach maturity in as few as six months, compared to northeastern oysters which take four times that long. This simple fact provides a key for alternative methods of growing oysters. As you flip through the pages of this season’s Alabama Current Connection, learn about how oyster gardening, an outreach activity initially conceived to improve productivity on our wild reefs, has given rise to a new and burgeoning industry: off-bottom oyster aquaculture. Some former oyster gardeners and new investors have expanded operations, providing hatchery-reared, single-set oysters with a lovely shape and appearance to the premium half-shell market by count.

This issue is of particular importance to the Swann family. As the leader of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Dr. LaDon Swann has dedicated many years of oyster-related research as well as being a proponent of growing the State’s aquaculture industry. In the following pages you will learn about the Sea Grant’s significant role in the development and evolution of this exciting new industry.

When we moved to Alabama, did I ever imagine the little boy held tight on my lap as we plowed through Mobile Bay’s waves would grow up to become an oyster farmer? The answer is unequivocally NO. But today LaDon and I stand proud of our son, Gage, who has a bright future ahead of him, harvesting an oyster bounty, carving out a life on the water, and keeping our plates full of the succulent, Alabama grown oyster. My heart is happy

Alabama Current Connection
Spring 2020 Vo. XIV, Issue 1

The Oyster: An Icon of Life on the Alabama Gulf Coast (PDF, 6.2MB)


Posted on 02/28/20 at 04:54 PM Permalink

RFQ for Fly Creek Watershed Management Plan is out

An RFQ for the Fly Creek Watershed Managment Plan has been issued. Click here to download the full RFQ.

Posted on 01/22/20 at 02:04 PM Permalink

MBNEP is seeking a Monitoring & Science Lead

Job Overview:  The Monitoring and Science Lead has three primary responsibilities: Lead the implementation of  and improvements to monitoring activities guided by the Mobile Bay Subwatershed Restoration Monitoring Framework for restoration activities and system-wide status and trends; development of science communication tools to improve community understanding of environmental issues; and provide staff support guidance for the Science Advisory Committee (SAC) including assistance with development and communication of data related to measuring change in environmental health and how it impacts community health and quality of life.

Click here to read the full announcement

Posted on 01/22/20 at 08:20 AM Permalink

Western Shore Community Meetings for Watershed Management Planning

Date: January 17, 2020



The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) is seeking input and feedback from citizens living along the Western Shore of Mobile Bay as a comprehensive plan to manage the care and use of its lands, habitats, shores, and waterways is developed. This focus area includes a complex of the three watersheds stretching along and draining into the Bay, from the industrial waterfront portions of the City of Mobile south to the Dauphin Island Causeway.

Anyone who lives, works, or plays in the Western Shore Complex is encouraged to attend, learn about the planning process and collection of data, and to express concerns and insights. Public input is critical to ensuring viewpoints of the people who know the area are addressed, problems are analyzed, and solutions and funding sources to pay for them are recommended.

The public is invited to Community meetings at locations along the Western Shore at dates and times listed below to provide opportunities to identify priorities and express hopes and concerns for maintaining or improving the quality of waters, habitats, and life there. Along with scientific studies to assess water quality, shoreline and habitat condition, and land use impacting Mobile Bay, public engagement is necessary to develop management strategies that include public priorities and address public concerns.

Community Meetings

  • Thursday, January 23 | 5:30-7:00 pm Elk’s Lodge, 2671 Dauphin Island Parkway, Mobile, AL
  • Monday, February 3 | 5:30-7:00 pm Pelican Reef, 11799 Dauphin Island Pkwy, Theodore, AL
  • Monday, February 10 | 5:30-7:00 Hollinger’s Island Baptist Church, 2450 Island Road, Mobile, AL

“We know Mobile Bay is a very special place to so many people,” said MBNEP Director Roberta Swann. “This Plan is about ensuring the Bay continues to provide recreational, scenic, economic, environmental, and other benefits to all who care about it. The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program’s mission is to ensure the wise stewardship of the quality and living resources of Alabama’s estuarine waters. The Western Shore Complex Watershed Management Plan is a key element to our mission, and community participation is vital to its development. We hope every resident who cares about Mobile Bay’s Western Shore will turn out.”

“We hope many people from all Western Shore watersheds come out and share their ideas about our future,” said Debi Foster, a member of the Steering Committee for the Plan, “The more people who participate, the better job we can do to make sure the plan addresses everyone’s interests and concerns.” For more information, visit our Western Shore page or contact Herndon Graddick ( (251) 380 7944).

WSWMP Press Release (PDF)

Posted on 01/17/20 at 01:33 PM Permalink

Upcoming Western Shore meeting. Your input is needed!

Posted on 01/14/20 at 11:06 AM Permalink

Western Shore StoryMap is Live!

The Western Shore Watershed Management Plan StoryMap is now live. The StoryMap provides residents and stakeholders the ability to engage in watershed planning by learning about the landscape, the community, and the plan to protect our watershed. Viewers are encouraged to participate by clicking on, Tell Us What You Think, at the top of the page and answering a short series of questions. For more information, visit the Western Shore Watershed page.

Posted on 12/09/19 at 04:46 PM Permalink

The Nature Conservancy is seeking a Conservation Practitioner IV


Mobile, Alabama, USA



Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable.  One of our core values is our commitment to diversity. Therefore, we strive for a globally diverse and culturally competent workforce. Working in 72 countries, including all 50 United States, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

The Nature Conservancy offers competitive compensation, 401k or savings-plan matching for eligible employees, excellent benefits, flexible work policies and a collaborative work environment. We also provide professional development opportunities and promote from within. As a result, you will find a culture that supports and inspires conservation achievement and personal development, both within the workplace and beyond.


The Conservation Practitioner IV develops, manages and advances coastal and marine conservation projects, plans and methods for small to medium scale geographic areas.  The position will be part of the Coastal Team in Alabama which implements watershed and coastal restoration projects to reduce shoreline erosion and improve the condition of coastal habitats and estuaries in Mobile Bay and along the coast. The Coastal Program also supports broad partnerships by providing planning support, advancing large grants, and developing new analysis tools to ensure that projects benefit the environment, economy, and local communities.


The Conservation Practitioner IV (CPIV) provides technical leadership and support to a business unit and plans and directs coastal and marine restoration projects, including permitting and contracting, monitoring activities, and land stewardship activities.  The CPIV addresses critical threats to natural systems and individual species, fosters cross-site learning among conservation community, and supplies conservation planning teams with site or landscape level information relevant to the planning process.  The CPIV develops and implements conservation strategies and employs a full range of protection tools to acquire varying degrees of legal interest in land and implements a variety of strategies to secure public and private support for TNC conservation priorities.  The CPIV coordinates community support, coordinates multiple projects, sets deadlines, and manages completion. As part of this team, the CPIV will assist with grant writing, management, and reporting; participate in all aspects of data collection and fieldwork; coordinate with local, state, federal, and private partners; and engage local communities and private landowners in coastal restoration actions. CPIV is expected to work with the Philanthropy and External Affairs teams to provide expertise to donors and elected officials when necessary to advance conservation goals.


Performs tasks with minimal supervision and makes independent decisions based on analysis, experience and context.
Executes and manages projects and monitoring tasks in a timely manner.
Supervises technical, administrative and professional staff with responsibility for performance management, training and development. 
Ensures program compliance with internal policies and external requirements.
Works in variable weather conditions, at remote locations, on difficult and hazardous terrain and under physically demanding circumstances.


Bachelor’s degree and 3 years’ experience or Master’s degree and 1-2 years’ experience in natural resource management or similar field or equivalent combination of education and experience.
Experience managing staff or volunteers.  
Experience working in a team atmosphere with multiple stakeholders on multi-component collaborative projects.
Relationship building skills to work closely with a variety of partners, i.e., media, government officials, internal scientists.
Experience completing tasks independently with respect to timeline(s).
Excellent communication skills via written, spoken and graphical means in English and other relevant languages.
Experience using common software applications such as Word, Excel, web browsers, etc.
Must have valid driver's license and good driving record, as well as AL Boat Operations Endorsement.



Multi-lingual skills and multi-cultural or cross-cultural experience appreciated
3-5 years’ experience in natural resource management, similar field or equivalent combination of education and experience.  
Experience working on restoration projects that require Federal and State regulations and permitting.
Experience managing engineers and contractors to carry out specific project tasks in a timely manner.
Ability and willingness to apply science to decision-making and guide activities.
Familiarity with principles of land acquisition or similar asset acquisition.
Knowledge of ecological resource management principles.
Knowledge of current trends and practices in conservation, coastal restoration, and natural resource conservation.
Familiarity with ArcGIS application and GPS equipment and software.


This position requires a valid driver's license and compliance with the Conservancy's Auto Safety Program. Employees may not drive Conservancy-owned/leased vehicles, rental cars, or personal vehicles on behalf of the Conservancy if considered "high risk drivers." Please see further details in the Auto Safety Program document available at Employment in this position will be contingent upon completion of a Vehicle Use Agreement, which may include a review of the prospective employee's motor vehicle record.


Click here to apply.

Posted on 10/30/19 at 03:12 PM Permalink

Rain Barrels Helping Alabama City Combat Flooding

Patsy Stallworth loves her rain barrels.

“I didn’t understand it at first, but after my husband explained it to me, I like it.”

Stallworth has two 55-gallon rain barrels installed at her home in the Mobile suburb of Prichard, catching up to 110 gallons of rainwater for her to use to water her flowers, wash her cars and wash the dirt off the house.

“I was amazed at how it worked,” Stallworth said. “When it rains it fills up really quickly. This is a new adventure for me.”

Rain barrels helping alleviate flooding issues in Prichard from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The rain barrels were installed at Stallworth’s home, free-of-charge, thanks to a stormwater mitigation program organized by the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program. Christian Miller, Watershed Management Coordinator for the Mobile Bay NEP, said the rain barrels are a big help in reducing flooding in Prichard, which is part of the Three Mile Creek Watershed.

“We’ve had a lot of issues with residential street flooding and some issues with sanitary sewer runovers, so some of the ways to combat this are to put in these rain-catchment devices,” Miller said. “These two 55-gallon drums aren’t going to solve all of our problems, but as we get more of these out it will hopefully help to reduce these localized issues with residential flooding.”

An inch of rain falling on a typical 1,000-square-foot roof yields more than 600 gallons of water which, in urban areas like Prichard, ends up washing down streets and other hard surfaces, picking up and carrying pollutants into waterways. Miller said increased rainwater harvesting will help reduce impacts associated with residential stormwater runoff.

Rain barrels helping alleviate flooding issues in Prichard from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“The residents have been the biggest champions,” Miller said. “Once we get them in and see what utility they have, they go around and tell their neighbors, the neighbors come to see them and we get phone calls at the office. People really like them and want to have them installed at their house.”

Miller said dozens of rain barrels have been installed in Prichard thanks to donations of materials and labor, including 98 barrels at 46 homes installed by volunteers from Alabama Power Service Organization.

“We’ve got a really good partnership with several different entities,” Miller said. “Greif Packaging and Soterra LLC have donated the barrels and Alabama Power has been really helpful providing supplies and labor to help install. With those folks and Mobile Bay NEP, we’ve really had a good combined effort to put all of these rain barrels out around the community.”

To learn more about the rain barrel program, visit or call the Mobile Bay NEP at 251-431-6409.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)


Posted on 10/22/19 at 10:16 AM Permalink

Mobile Bay NEP Watershed Management Plan Collaboration

On July 11, 2019, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law a bill to broaden the state’s definition of litter and increase fines and enforcement capabilities. This state-wide legislation is supported by the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) Government Networks Committee. MBNEP recently collaborated with partners to implement comprehensive litter mitigation strategies recommended in the Three Mile Creek coastal watershed management plan. 

The Mobile Bay NEP is currently working on a multi-phase litter abatement project in the watershed. This project includes (1) deploying and maintaining 10 “Litter Gitter” small stream litter collection devices; (2) developing litter profiles at each site using the EPA’s Escaped Trash Assessment Protocol (ETAP); (3) conducting single pass tactical cleanups of shoreline throughout the watershed; (4) developing a web-based publicly available litter collection/ETAP reporting system; and (5) creating an alternative packaging program in the Three Mile Creek Watershed. To date, the Three Mile Creek Trash-Free Waters project has removed 7,963 lbs (5,085 cubic feet) of litter, exceeding the overall project goal of 4,800 lbs. Of the waste collected, 1,475 lbs (1,274 cubic feet) of the material has been recycled.  —Romell Nandi,

Source: The Flow of...Trash Free Waters October Newsletter

Posted on 10/18/19 at 09:52 AM Permalink

Partnership Brings Trash Collection Devices to Proctor Creek Georgia

The Coca-Cola Company, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), the City of Atlanta, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, Groundwork Atlanta, Park Pride, and EPA Region 4 have partnered to install six innovative trash-trap systems along Proctor Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River on Atlanta’s Westside. On September 19, 2019, partners held a kickoff event for the Coca-Cola World Without Waste Campaign in Atlanta and Proctor Creek showcasing the Bandalong Trash Trap and installation of the Litter Gitter, both litter capture technologies. Coca-Cola provided a grant to NRPA to support the installation of five Litter Gitters and one Bandalong Litter Trap with a goal of collecting and reducing 80% of downstream litter in the creek. 

The Litter Gitter is a smallstream litter collection device used to intercept floating litter from stormwater runoff using floating booms that guide trash to a large wire-mesh collection container. The Bandalong Litter Trap is an industrial strength litter trap that uses the current to guide debris into the trap. Educational signage at the park will inform visitors about the litter catchment systems and provide education on how to reduce litter by recycling and disposing of trash in receptacles. For more information, contact Cynthia Y. Edwards, PE, at

Source: The Flow of...Trash Free Waters October Newsletter

Posted on 10/18/19 at 09:47 AM Permalink