Coastal Monitor Program
Texas Sea Grant has partnered with non-profit organization FlatsWorthy, Inc. to develop and implement a Coastal Monitor Program that captures information about environmental changes within Texas coastal communities in cooperation with local environmental stewards.
The program has assembled a network of fishing industry participants, such as for-hire fishing guides, recreational and commercial fishermen, and other individuals with long-term ties to coastal areas who are willing to share their observations of environmental changes that have occurred, and that continue to occur, in their area. The project seeks input from these stewards, who are serving as Coastal Field Monitors, so that their traditional and local knowledge of the issues affecting our coastal environment can be acknowledged and documented.
How the Program Works
Texas Sea Grant Extension Specialists and FlatsWorthy, Inc. personnel conducted outreach to inform fishermen and other environmental stewards about the program and to locate individuals who are interested in participating as Field Monitors. Field Monitors first fill out an Initial Observation Log, where they provide information about their role within their coastal community and what they feel are the most pressing issues affecting their bay system. Field Monitors then complete subsequent follow-up observation logs, where they document their ongoing observations of any long-term and acute ecological and environmental changes affecting their area. The observation logs allow the Monitors to periodically report their insights on a variety of issues based on their day-to-day experiences in and on the water, including potential changes they observe in vegetation, water quality, soil and bottom composition, shorelines, and biodiversity in their area.
To date, the Field Monitors have provided their insights and observations on a variety of topics, including:
- Historical/long-term environmental changes such as reduced seagrass coverage and changing shoreline shape due to hurricanes, boat traffic, and erosion over the past several decades;
- Fish kills, dead or damaged black mangrove vegetation, and dead sea turtles and seabirds as a result of the severe winter storm event of February 2021;
- How the COVID-19 pandemic has brought more recreational anglers to the coast as more Texans and non-resident anglers have sought to participate in outdoor recreational activities as a result of job loss, working from home, or wanting to engage in outdoor rather than indoor activities during the pandemic;
- Reduced seagrass coverage, rising water levels in coastal wetlands, and algal blooms offshore due to heavy rains throughout coastal Texas at the start of summer 2021.
Goals and Benefits
By collaborating with coastal residents along the Texas coast who share their unique insights and perspectives about the areas in which they live and work, the Coastal Monitor Program aims to gain a better understanding of the processes, trends, and challenges that warrant further research or management response in coastal communities. A long-term goal of the initiative is to build capacity within these coastal systems to identify and prioritize information, research, and technology needs, which Texas Sea Grant will be able to use to inform future programs concerning the for-hire and recreational fishing industries. The project findings will be shared with researchers and resource managers so that they can then develop appropriate studies and informed recommendations based on this valuable library of knowledge that was compiled with an emphasis on local voices and collaborative efforts between fishermen, academia, and management.
Texas Sea Grant looks forward to successfully implementing this project and working with FlatsWorthy, Inc. and local stewards on this fact-finding mission about our coastal communities!