provided to Santiva Chronicle
What is Coastal Watch? A small, but dedicated band of local residents who are committed to marine conservation on a local level. We want to help conserve the coastal heritage of southwest Florida, that we know and love, for future generations; we have a strong sense of place, and feel obligated to volunteer to do our part.
Many years ago, we started as the Sanibel-Captiva Chapter of START (Solutions to Avoid Red Tide), the local chapter of a state-wide organization dedicated to minimizing the devastating effects of red tide. We held an annual fundraiser, Crackerfest, in the dirt parking lot of a local bait shop.
In 2017, the steering committee determined that we really wanted to focus solely on Lee County initiatives, and decided to create our own group. We felt strongly that working together, with another similar-minded organization was more efficient than starting another non-profit on the islands. After deliberation, we approached Sanibel Sea School to see if we could become the initiative arm of that organization. They are great at environmental education and it seemed logical for them to have a branch for community environmental action. After all, the most effective conservation comes from a combination of knowledge and action. We operate as the initiative arm of Sanibel Sea School, our initiatives are driven by the Coastal Watch advisory board.
Through much deliberation and business protocol, we arrived at a name – Coastal Keepers; we felt that it perfectly described our mission and actions – keepers, and trustees of our coastal resources. To accompany our shiny new name, we changed the name and venue of our fundraising event – appropriately named, The Launch, and held at the Sanibel Community House. The first Launch was held in 2018.
Shortly after that inaugural event, we were presented with a cease and desist letter from a New York legal firm informing us that we were in copyright infringement of a national organization, and that we must (again) change our name. This was not the ripple effect we had hoped for, but it gave us hope that at least our activities went beyond our community. After again, much more deliberation, and more thorough legal research, we settled on the name Coastal Watch. Same group of folks, trying to make time to help make our community a little better place, just with a new name, version 2.0.
We recognize that there are many environmental challenges in our area, but some of these are just too big for us to tackle – think Caloosahatchee watershed problems; many of us are working people, who squeeze this in, because we know there are things we can do, in our community, to help make richer, and more aligned with principals of sustainability. We hope these initiatives may be a ripple effect, making our community strong and allowing other communities to follow suit and begin projects in their community.
Over the years, we have created an environmental education portal used by public schools (Coastal Classroom), to enhance marine education for middle and high school kids, we have created Seafood Savvy to promote the consumption of sustainable seafood, we created BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) to promote the use of reusable bags for shopping, we created Strawless on Sanibel, which led to the ordinance prohibiting the widespread use of plastic straws on our islands.
This year, we are proud to introduce two new initiatives, one that will help us as citizens, become better stewards of our environment, and one that will directly help our marine environment cope with the effects of human inhabitation. Stay tuned for more information about this year’s initiatives.
The advisory board of Coastal Watch is composed of: Rick Bartleson, Bob Brooks, Douglas Gould, Bailie Johnson, Richard Johnson, Sam Lucas, Henry Nachtsheim, Bruce Neill, Kim Taverna, Ron Taverna, and Kevin Vertesch. We are always seeking others willing to join us and give a little of their time for our efforts to make our islands more engaged with nature, and in doing so, create more harmony with the natural bounty of southwest Florida. Please inquire if you feel you have a little to give to our group of dedicated folk, to leave a better environment to future generations.
And please help us help our community. The Launch is November 16th at the Sanibel Community House, please come and have a fun night, so that we, as a community can be proud of, and continue our stewardship of the natural resources that support our island communities.
Coastal Watch operates as a branch of Sanibel Sea School, a 501(c)3 organization, to create and implement local conservation initiatives that promote and improve the future of marine resources, and our coastal heritage. To learn more, visit us at sancapcoastalwatch.org or call (239) 472-8585.