NAPLES, Fla. – Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR), in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Audubon Florida, has closed the emergent sandbar located one mile southeast of Cape Romano, known as “Second Chance.” The sandbar, which is closed to public access annually from March 1 - Aug. 31, was designated as a Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) by the FWC in the fall of 2015.
“Last year we saw marked improvement in nesting success for threatened least terns and other species,” said Rookery Bay Reserve Director Keith Laakkonen. “Protecting this habitat during the nesting season will increase the likelihood of successful breeding.”
Adam DiNuovo is the Audubon Shorebird Monitoring and Stewardship Program coordinator at the Reserve. His data shows that in 2015, 80 least tern nests on this sand bar produced a total of one chick, but in 2016, the year the CWA designation took effect, 50 pairs produced a total of 60 chicks. "Least Terns in Collier County had the best productivity in the state," DiNuovo said.
The area has been closed annually since 2001 to protect nesting habitat for Least Terns, Black Skimmers and Wilson’s Plover. This is the second year that the CWA rules are in place prohibiting vessels, in addition to people and dogs, from visiting the sandbar during summer nesting season. Rookery Bay Reserve offers numerous other recreational options throughout its 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters.
RBNERR and FWC have installed perimeter signs on the island to clearly mark the sandbar as closed. The signs will be removed on Aug. 31 after the birds have left and boating visitors may return.
The Least Tern and Black Skimmer are listed as Threatened species in Florida by the FWC. Nesting areas will be monitored throughout the nesting season and harassment or removal of endangered or threatened birds, their eggs or young is a violation of state law and may subject violators to criminal penalties. Additionally, the attempt to remove or possess any migratory bird, their nest or eggs is a violation of federal law.