Fishers Island Seagrass Management 10/23/18 Meeting Summary

Summary of the Meeting of Fishers Island Seagrass Management (FISM) Coalition
October 23, 2018 at the HL Ferguson Museum

In 2017, the H.L. Ferguson Museum, the Fishers Island Conservancy, and The Nature Conservancy partnered to convene a Fishers Island community-based seagrass management (FISM) coalition. The goal of the coalition is to establish a co-management process for the island’s seagrass meadows, one in which the island community and the state would share seagrass management authority and responsibility. Their quarterly meetings are open to the public and begin with a presentation related to seagrass ecology and management.

Stakeholders present: Elizabeth McCance (Ferguson Museum); Pierce Rafferty (Ferguson Museum); Justine Kibbe (FI Conservancy), Tom O’Neill (ICB) (via phone); Marj Beck (Harbor Committee); Chris Edwards (Commercial Fishing); Steve Malinowski (Aquaculture); Chippy DuPont (Pirates Cove Marina); Dave Beckwith (Contracted ferries); Geb Cook (FI Ferry District); Heather Burnham (FI Ferry District); Dave Burnham (Landscapers); Tracy Brock (Diving); Joe Woolston (Recreational spearfishing) (on phone); John McCall (Recreational fishing); Chantal Collier (TNC).

Stakeholders not present: Louisa Evans (Town of Southold), Mark Terry (Town of Southold), Michael Domino (Town of Southold), P.B. Weymouth (FIDCO), Bob Tyler (Hay Harbor Club), Donnie Beck (Big Club), Carol Giles (FI School), Lincoln White (Recreational Boating)

Invited Speakers/Guests: Victoria O’Neill (NYDEC/LISS); Stephen Lloyd (TNC); Matias Tong (TNC)

Observers present: Candace Whitman (Union Chapel/ICB); Nicholas Hall, Betsy Conyer

Presentation: Analysis and results of 2017 eelgrass extent/condition and boating surveys at Fishers Island

Conducting a benthic survey via SCUBA. Photo Credit: Adam Starke

Matias Tong of The Nature Conservancy gave a presentation regarding a study conducted to determine the extent and condition of the eelgrass surrounding Fishers Island. The use of two different survey techniques—dive surveying by TNC and aerial imaging by the US Fish and Wildlife Service—provided important information on the location and health of eelgrass beds around the island. A few notable observations were: the dive surveys, conducted in early fall, found more eelgrass than the aerial surveys, which occurred in early summer, showing the seasonal growth of the eelgrass beds; also, there was patchiness in some of the meadows not visible on the aerial imaging, stressing the importance of

Aerial imaging from the LightHawk survey. Photo Credit: Chantal Collier.

He also discussed the results of a boating survey taken during summer 2017. Boating can have a variety of impacts from anchors and propeller scars. Scars can accumulate over time and have long-lasting effects, including increasing fragmentation, erosion and turbidity. Traditional moorings can also cause damage as their swinging chains can scrape up eelgrass, creating circular “scars” visible in aerial imagery. The boating survey, conducted by TNC, LightHawk and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, assessed the patterns of vessel use in the vicinity of the eelgrass beds by looking at the vessel composition, vessel location, and temporal trends (busiest days of the summer, weekend versus weekday). The results indicated that most boats identified in the survey were recreational powerboats, with high numbers on the north side of the island, where eelgrass beds are abundant. There was some overlap between boat use and both current and historic eelgrass extents. The survey also revealed that the two busiest days were Sundays, one in late July and one in late August. The information gathered in both the boating survey and eelgrass extent and condition survey is important for determining how to manage and protect the eelgrass habitats around Fishers Island.

Following his presentation, Matias suggested the following management strategies to help reduce the impacts of boating on the eelgrass beds:

  • Boater Education & Public Outreach
  • Zoning and Special Management Area
  • Conservation Moorings

A full report on Matias’ findings will be made available in the next few weeks. Please email if you are interested in receiving a copy.

The next FISM Coalition meeting will take place in late January, with a specific time and date to come.

Are you interested in learning more about the FISM Coalition, or seagrass in general? Please contact Emily Bodell, FISM Project Coordinator, at or 631-788-7239 with questions or comments.

Click any image to see a larger photo.

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