Since 1996, Rookery Bay Research Reserve’s research team and volunteers have been analyzing the effects of land-use changes on fish and invertebrate populations. They collect fish samples with a trawl net each month in several bays, including Pumpkin, Faka Union, Fakahatchee, Naples, Moorings, and Rookery. The catch is transferred from the net into bins of water and then sorted so thatfish and commercially important shellfish, such as stone crabs, blue crabs and pink shrimp, are counted and measured before being returned to the estuary. The team also makes note of the quantity of macro algae and other organisms caught in the net. At each trawl site, water chemistry information is recorded, including salinity, dissolved oxygen and water temperature.
The trawls help inform the reserve's management as well as three projects:
- Effect of Picayune Strand Restoration on Fish and Shellfish Populations in the Ten Thousand Islands
- Monitoring the Fish Populations of Naples and Moorings Bays
- Changes in Rookery Bay and Henderson Creek Fish Populations: A 40-Year Retrospective Study
Why this Matters
Bays or estuaries are like nurseries where young fish grow up before moving out into the Gulf of Mexico. Healthy estuaries, which have the right amount of fresh water flowing in at the right time, provide sea grass, oyster beds, red mangrove prop roots, and macroalgae that serve as hiding places and feeding grounds for young fish. Many of the same species that recreational anglers target in the Gulf, including snapper, grouper, and trout, start their lives here.
Without this monitoring program, the restoration team in charge of Everglades restoration would not be able to tell if or when their efforts resulted in more natural conditions downstream. The City of Naples and the community around Moorings Bay would not know whether their waters are providing good habitat for diverse fish communities. Also, the South Florida Water Management District would not know how canal system management changes are affecting marine life in Henderson Creek.
To learn more about some of the fish in Rookery Bay Reserve, check out our Wildlife and Wild Places page.