New Critical Wildlife Area in-water markers to be installed in Lee County
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will soon be installing in-water markers around five new Critical Wildlife Areas in Lee County. Each of these CWAs support significant numbers of nesting birds, including brown pelicans, great blue herons, great egrets and white ibises, as well as state-threatened little blue herons and tricolored herons. The locations of these CWAs are:
Hemp Key CWA – A 5.7-acre island within the Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve, west of Pine Island, a part of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Broken Islands CWA – Three mangrove islands within the Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve, northwest of Pineland.
Matanzas Pass Island CWA – A spoil island northwest of the Matanzas Pass Bridge and San Carlos Island in Fort Myers Beach, adjacent to the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve.
Big Carlos Pass CWA – A mangrove island on the southeast side of Estero Island, within the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve.
Coconut Point East CWA – A mangrove island northeast of Big Hickory Island, within the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve.
The posting of these CWAs is a continuation of an unprecedented conservation effort by the FWC to protect vulnerable wildlife species in the state. In November 2016, the Commission approved a proposal to designate 13 new CWAs and improve five existing CWAs. Prior to the approval, FWC staff held public workshops across the state to gather feedback and improve proposals. CWAs play an integral part in the protection of sensitive wildlife by minimizing human disturbances that can disrupt critical life activities such as breeding, feeding and migration.
Markers will be placed around the CWAs at distances ranging from 100 to 150 feet. Broken Islands CWA will be closed seasonally, from March 1 to Aug. 31, while the remaining four CWAs will be marked for year-round closure. Vessels and fishing are prohibited within posted areas. A violation would constitute a second-degree misdemeanor. FWC staff will be working closely with partners to ensure educational material regarding the locations and regulations for each new CWA are readily available. Markers will be installed at all five CWAs before Feb. 28, 2018, in time for peak breeding season for the birds nesting on these islands.
To learn more about Florida’s CWAs, visit MyFWC.com/CWA.