Fisheries Independent Monitoring Assessing Fisheries Utilization in Restored Habitats in Lake Worth Lagoon

by Richard Paperno

The Lake Worth Lagoon (LWL) is an estuary that has suffered an extensive loss of estuarine habitats and degraded water quality due to human development activities over the past century (PBCERM 2010). In an effort to regain valuable lost estuarine habitats, Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management (PBC ERM) and its partners have collaborated on restoration and water-quality improvement projects to create and restore lost habitat (PBCERM 2016). While these projects may benefit fisheries to the Lagoon, there have been no long-term fish community monitoring programs to assess the utilization by fisheries of these restored habitats.

FIM, Palm Beach County and FAU researchers pull seine nets at Grassy Flats.

Fisheries-Independent Monitoring (FIM) program and Fish Biology scientists from the Indian River and Tequesta Field Labs, Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management and Florida Atlantic University have been collaborating to assess fish species presence and utilization of specific restored habitats in the central Lake Worth Lagoon as the site matures, beginning in 2014. The project includes monitoring the 13-acre Grassy Flats restoration site (completed 2015), a 100 acre Snook Islands restoration site (mature site), and an unimproved, pseudo-control area that includes habitats similar to Grassy Flats prior to the restoration.

Beginning in July 2015 and continuing through June 2016, stratified-random sampling with multiple gear types was conducted by Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s FIM program. The two gear’s types and methods used captured fish at various stages of development, from initial recruitment into the estuary through harvestable sizes.