Fishers Island First to be Tapped for MPA Watch Pilot Study

(l) East Beach eelgrass meadow. Emily Bodell Photo. (r) Angela Kemsley (r) of MPA Watch, San Diego, Cal., trains volunteer Island monitors at Dock Beach. Justine Kibbe Photo

Fishers Island is the first community outside of California to be included in an MPA Watch pilot program launched in August, 2019. MPA (Marine Protected Area) Watch is a San Diego, Cal.-based community science program, where volunteers collect scientific data on coastal and marine resource use to share with scientists and policy makers.

Even though there are no Marine Protected Areas in the vicinity of Fishers Island, the pilot program is designed to demonstrate that the same monitoring protocol can be adapted and used anywhere.

Healthy seagrass meadows that surround Fishers Island comprise 25 percent of the remaining eelgrass in Fishers Island Sound. Human activity, however, including coastal construction, boating and beach recreation, inevitably shares space with seagrass, a vital marine resource.

The Fishers Island Seagrass Management (FISM) Coalition reached out to MPA Watch hoping to develop a volunteer monitoring program to quantify “human uses” of Fishers Island’s seagrass beds. The timing was right, and MPA Watch agreed to work with Fishers Island.

FISM Coalition, along with Henry L. Ferguson Museum, The Nature Conservancy—Long Island Sound Program, WildCoast and Resources Legacy Fund, brought Angela Kemsley of MPA Watch to Fishers Island to identify local monitoring areas and to train volunteer monitors. The monitoring areas include West Harbor, North Hill and East Beach.

FISM Coalition plans to work with municipal and state agencies, as well as the Fishers Island community, to establish Seagrass Management Areas around Fishers Island. Data collected by volunteer monitors will provide information critical to the creation of these Areas.

Human use monitoring is a great way to get involved with the stewardship of our precious eelgrass habitat! If you are interested in volunteering, or would like to learn more about the FISM Coalition and the monitoring program, please contact Emily Bodell, FISM Project Coordinator, at fishersislandseagrass@gmail.com. To learn more about MPA Watch, please visit www.mpawatch.org.