The Ferguson Museum was recently awarded a New York State Conservation Partnership Program grant. It was one of 51 land trusts to receive such an award. The conservation catalyst grant will be used to facilitate the work of the Fishers Island Seagrass Management Coalition, of which the Museum is a leading member. The FISM coalition was organized last summer to address the protection and management of our vital eelgrass resources.
Providing a number of ecosystem services ranging from providing nursery habitat for many fish species to improving water quality to protecting shorelines by dampening wave action, eelgrass was once prevalent throughout Long Island Sound but has declined drastically (by 90% to less than 2000 acres) since the 1930’s. Of the remaining 10% in Long Island Sound, 20 percent is located in the waters around Fishers Island, and these meadows comprise 98 percent of the eelgrass remaining in the New York waters of the Sound.
Recognizing the perils to this valued resource, the New York State Legislature passed the Seagrass Protection Act in 2012. This act calls for 1) the establishment of seagrass management areas (SMAs), 2) the development and implementation of management plans for the seagrass management areas, and 3) the consultation and working relationships with relevant stakeholders in order to protect and manage the seagrass resource. In 2017, H.L. Ferguson Museum and the Fishers Island Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy partnered to convene a Fishers Island community-based seagrass management (FISM) coalition. Including those organizations and groups that interact directly and indirectly with the island’s nearshore marine environment, the FISM coalition is comprised of representatives from the HL Ferguson Museum, Fishers Island Conservancy, Town of Southold, ICB, FIDCO, Fishers Island Club, Hay Harbor Club, FI Yacht Club, Harbor Committee, FI School, Pirates Cove Marina, FI Ferry District, as well as from the following groups: commercial fishing, aquaculture, contracted ferries, landscapers, divers, recreational fishing and spearfishing. 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. While additional funding is being sought, the grant will contribute to the hiring of a coordinator and the development of a process for community-based management of our precious seagrass resource.
Pierce Rafferty, Director
Henry L. Ferguson Museum