Thanks to the hard work and cooperation amongst our Federal, state, conservation organizations, and local partners it has been an exciting and productive year in the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership (ACFHP)! We have made great strides in building our project funding and endorsement programs, strengthening our partnerships, and growing our science and data initiatives with the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.
Project Funding and Endorsement Programs
2013 was the fourth year of ACFHP’s successful partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) funding on-the-ground fish habitat conservation projects. We were pleased to fund two new projects this year: the first, led by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, will focus on restoring eelgrass habitat in the Peconic Estuary, New York. The second, led by the University of North Florida, will focus on preventing shoreline erosion and promoting shoreline accretion using a combination of mussel and oyster-based living shorelines, and Spartina alterniflora planting, in the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, Florida. We’re excited about the expected results these projects will yield. If you’d like to learn more about these and other ACFHP-USFWS funded projects, please visit: www.atlanticfishhabitat.org/projects/fundedprojects/
In cooperation with its state partners, and with funding from its NOAA-NMFS partner, ACFHP moved towards implementing an on-the-ground project to extend conservation mooring technology currently in place in Massachusetts, to a new location on the Atlantic coast. A conservation mooring is a system designed to avoid contact with the seafloor thereby reducing physical damage to submerged aquatic vegetation. The system uses an elastic connection, akin to a bungee cord, to connect the surface buoy with the anchoring device. This eliminates any chain sweep that physically damages or eliminates vegetation growing on the seafloor. We are narrowing in on a location for the project and will reveal more in 2014!
ACFHP also endorsed several project proposals this year: a dam removal and riverine habitat restoration project in New Hampshire, a dam removal project in Connecticut, a salt marsh and tidal creek restoration project in North Carolina, and a culvert replacement and shoreline restoration project in South Carolina. In the absence of funding or other resources, endorsement is an opportunity to gain support from ACFHP for your completed, current, or proposed project. To learn more about past and present ACFHP endorsed projects and proposals please visit: www.atlanticfishhabitat.org/projects/endorsedprojects/.
In collaboration with its neighboring Fish Habitat Partnerships (FHP)s, the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV) and the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP), ACFHP took steps to promote a more cohesive implementation of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, which helps to direct the work of protecting, restoring and enhancing fish habitats, across their collective partner states. Through this alliance among ACFHP, EBTJV, and SARP — coined the Whitewater to Bluewater partnership – the three FHPs are taking a more coordinated approach towards implementing their individual strategic plans, habitat assessments, and outreach activities.
In support of this objective, the three partnerships developed a Whitewater to Bluewater website, where one can access information and products pertaining to the Fish Habitat Partnership’s collaboration. This website development was generously supported by the EBTJV and Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative. We encourage you to check out the new website, and while you’re there, to visit the Whitewater Bluewater Partnership’s Species Spotlight page to learn about life history and habitat needs, habitat restoration efforts, and fun facts about select fish species. Winter flounder is the first featured species, and new species will be spotlighted on a bi-monthly basis.
In addition to collaborating with its neighboring FHPs, ACFHP has embarked on a national cooperative initiative with eight other FHPs, and one candidate FHP, which are helping to protect, restore, and
enhance fish habitats in coastal marine environments: the Pacific Marine and Estuarine FHP, the California Fish Passage Forum, the Hawaii FHP, the Kenai Peninsula FHP, the Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership, the Southeast Alaska FHP (candidate FHP), the Southwest Alaska Salmon Habitat Partnership, the Western Native Trout Initiative, and SARP. The initial products of this effort include a poster and quarterly newsletters highlighting the activities that these FHPs are undertaking. The coastal FHPs are building on these initial accomplishments, and exploring additional avenues for joint action in the future.
Growing our Science and Data Initiatives with the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives
With the funding support of the North Atlantic Landscape Cooperative, ACFHP and its partners have begun work with Downstream Strategies, LLC to complete habitat assessments: Development of a Decision Support Tool to Assess Aquatic Habitats & Threats in North Atlantic Watersheds & Estuaries. Through this project, data will be assembled and conditions analyzed to understand distribution, habitat, and threats to inland, estuarine, and coastal aquatic species across the North Atlantic region. Stakeholders will be engaged during all stages of the project to ensure that the results are useful to managers of aquatic resources and habitats.
The central focus of the project will revolve around a flexible modeling process that has been widely adopted by aquatic and fisheries experts across the country. Based on multiple models of individual species or species groups, Downstream Strategies will create species distribution maps along with identifying and quantifying threats and stressors to these species. They will then create a multi-criteria decision support tool that integrates the components of each model to provide an interactive and user-friendly mapping program for resource managers to visualize, rank, and manipulate inputs to prioritize areas for conservation action. More information on this project and the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative can be found at: www.northatlanticlcc.org/.
In the spirit of Whitewater to Bluewater collaboration, ACFHP partners have also been providing input to a South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative funded project entitled: Southeast Aquatic Connectivity Assessment Project. Jointly led by The Nature Conservancy and the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, the project seeks to conduct a GIS based assessment that prioritizes barriers to aquatic animal movement for mitigation throughout the Southeast region. More specifically, the project will focus on strategically reconnecting fragmented freshwater habitat through removal or bypassing of key barriers to fish passage. Work under this grant will focus on developing region-wide spatial data, tools, and protocols to prioritize potential fish barrier mitigation projects, thereby more efficiently conserving and restoring habitat for both the diverse array of freshwater species as well as the many diadromous fish species of the Southeast. More information on the project can be found at: www.southeastaquatics.net/groups/seacap. For more information on the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative please visit: www.southatlanticlcc.org/#.