NewsProtecting Paradise


Florida organizations help restore Hemp Key

Posted at 7:23 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 19:38:51-05

Multiple Florida organizations banded together to help restore a small island located off of Pine Island Sound.

"When you have a situation like this where the island has been slowly eroding you want to try and restore the habitat to make it more resilient for the future," said Eric Milbrandt with the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation.

Milbrandt and his team carried heavy buckets of oysters one by one to help restore Hemp Island.

The team strategically placed these oyster shells around the island so other oysters will attach to them and pile up.

Milbrandt said each oyster will filter up to 50 gallons of water each day creating a chain reaction for the rest of the local habitat.

“The shells will protect the seedlings that start to grow and the whole goal is to have this island canopied once again," said Milbrandt.
Besides the heavy lifting-- this project had quite a few obstacles.

"This particular island presents its own challenges and the remoteness of the island is probably one of the biggest."

Another obstacle is collecting all of the cleaned shells which is where George Halper with the Florida Fishery Foundation comes in. He has collected over 1,000 gallons of oyster shells from restaurants like Lobster Lady and the Lazy Flamingo. The shells have been cleaned and placed into buckets to be delivered to Milbrandt and his team.

“We’re working with them as a team to do this," said Halper. This is the first of many many islands and oyster bars throughout Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor that we will be doing.”

As a retired boat captain, Halper said the changes to our waterways are blatantly obvious, and it's restoration projects like these that will help.
"Here at Hemp Key, it's about four acres and before Charley and Irma it was about seven acres."

He said it's more than just hurricanes-- it's freshwater intrusion and red tide blooms that are diminishing our water quality and wiping out marine life.

Halper said all of their hard work isn't just for the people who visit Hemp Key. It's for better fishing leading to more tourism business. As a single dad, it's for his family too.

“I don’t want them on their computers," he said. "I want them out there with their families enjoying the outdoors, and if the water is clean and the fishing is better, families will be together.”

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