Our Environment

The Pinellas County Citizen Information Center is now open. Residents can call (727) 464-4333 with their preparedness questions or to report issues regarding Tropical Depression #9. If this is a true emergency, call 911. The Citizen Information Center will be open from 8 am - 6 pm as needed.

Residents should stay tuned for weather updates through weather alert radios, local media outlets and the County website (www.pinellascounty.org). (August 31, 2016)

Hurricanes & Tropical Storms


  
The 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially kicks off June 1 and runs through November 30. This is the peak time of year for hazardous storms to develop that may threaten Florida's shores.
    
The best plan for dealing with a hurricane is to be prepared and have a plan. Pinellas County has put together an extensive list of resources available to residents on its website. Please refer to the links below for additional information on getting prepared.
 

Severe weather doesn't have to be classified as a "Tropical Storm" or a "Hurricane" to be deadly. Florida is known as the Lightning Capital of the United States. Hurricanes and tropical storms garner much media attention because when they strike, they impact many lives and valuable property. However, it is lightning that is the #1 weather killer in the state. Whenever there is a thunderstorm in the area, it is always a good idea to seek shelter.
 
   .  Lightning Safety Tips

During an emergency activation you can call the Citizen Information Center at (727) 464-4333 for more information.

Hurricane FL
FL Lightning Strike

Recycling


Our residents are encouraged to recycle and there is a recycling drop off location right behind Town Hall (193rd Street). Also included in this section are some valuable links on how to dispose of other things that don't belong in your regular trash pickup.
 
Recycle
Sea Oats
Sea Oats help to stabilize the sand dunes and prevent erosion; especially in the threat of Tropical Storms and Hurricanes. Their addition to the coastal ecosystem also provides food and shelter to songbirds and seabirds and more.

Sea Oats are protected by State Law. It is unlawful to pick sea oats. The Town of Indian Shores participates in and supports Pinellas County's annual efforts of planting additional sea oats by partnering with the County in the Sea Oat Planting Program.

 
Sea Oats
Red Tide
A red tide is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plant-like organisms). In Florida, the species that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis.

This organism produces a toxin that can affect the central nervous system of fish. At high concentrations (called a bloom), the organisms may discolor the water. However, red tides are not always red. They can appear greenish, brownish and even purple in color. Or, the water can remain its normal color.

 
Dead Fish
Beach Nesting Birds
Shorebird nesting season runs from February through August. Indian Shores is home to several imperiled species of shore birds. Many of these species nest directly on the beach and their nests can be difficult to detect.

The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary and the Audubon Society mark these nests to help preserve the species as their natural environment becomes threatened.

Please see the following links for more information about these very special residents of our town:
 
Birds
Stingrays
May through October is when you'll see savvy beachgoers doing the Stingray Shuffle! Stingrays come into shallow Gulf waters for their mating season and settle in; they get partially covered with sand which makes it difficult to see them.

By shuffling your feet during these months, you give the Stingrays a chance to glide out of your way and you help to avoid the chances of sustaining a painful sting.
 
Stingray
Sea Turtles
Sea turtle nesting season is May 1 through October 31 each year.

Please do not disturb sea turtle nests and be mindful to remove all lawn chairs and beach toys from the beach in the evenings so the turtles have easy access from and to the water.

To report nesting, injured or dead sea turtles, please contact the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at 888-239-9414

For complete information on Sea Turtle Nesting visit the Pinellas County Environmental website.

Every year a beach lighting survey is done by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at night and a list is generated by property addresses where lights facing the beach are potentially a problem to sea turtles. The Town of Indian Shores has an ordinance in place to help protect Sea Turtles:  Sea Turtle Protection

For turtle friendly beach lighting, keep it:
 
LOW – mount the fixture as low to the ground as possible to avoid being seen from the beach and use the lowest amount of light needed.

SHIELDED
– Use fixtures that direct light down to the ground and shield the bulb, lamp or glowing lens from the beach.

LONG
– Sea turtles are less disturbed by long wavelength light sources (ambers and reds) in the appropriate lighting fixtures.

Additional online information about beach lighting and how to remedy problem lights:
Sea Turtle Conservancy
 
Sea Turtles, Nesting, and beach lighting Ordinances, and beach cleaning practices:  Florida Fish and Wildlife 
 
Wildlife Lighting Concerns and Information: 
Florida Fish and Wildlife Lighting Information 

Sea Turtle Conservancy is on a mission to educate homeowners on proper practices of friendly lighting and fixtures to use near sea turtle nesting beaches. Florida is home to 90% of all sea turtle nesting in the United States. With all the tourists, businesses, and coastal residents sharing the beaches with the sea turtles our community must make sure our properties lights (inside and out) are sea turtle friendly to ensure these hatchlings are given a chance of survival. Hatchlings have an instinct that leads them in the brightest direction, which is toward the ocean on a dark beach. LIGHTS OUT!

Please contact the Building Department for more information, 727-517-3940

Manatees
West Indian manatees are large, gray aquatic mammals with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. They have two forelimbs, called flippers, with three to four nails on each flipper. Their head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout. Manatees are believed to have evolved from a wading, plant-eating animal. The West Indian manatee is related to the West African manatee, the Amazonian manatee, the dugong, and Steller's sea cow, which was hunted to extinction in 1768. The average adult manatee is about 10 feet long and weighs between 800 and 1,200 pounds. 
 
Manatee with her baby
Turtle
Sea Turtle
Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas — particularly where seagrass beds or freshwater vegetation flourish. Manatees are a migratory species. Within the United States, they are concentrated in Florida in the winter. In summer months, they can be found as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts, but summer sightings in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are more common. During the winter months, manatees head for warm waters, such as springs and energy center discharge canals. For the remainder of the year, manatees are widely dispersed in Florida's waterways and along the coast. The following is a list of some of the places where you can see the endangered Florida manatee in captivity or in the wild.
  
Manatees are gentle and slow-moving animals. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and traveling. Manatee are mostly herbivorous, however small fish and invertebrates can sometimes be ingested along with a manatee’s normal vegetation diet. They eat a large variety of submerged, emergent, and floating plants and can consume 10-15% of their body weight in vegetation daily. Because they are mammals, they must surface to breathe air. They may rest submerged at the bottom or just below the surface of the water, coming up to breathe on an average of every three to five minutes. When manatees are using a great deal of energy, they may surface to breathe as often as every 30 seconds. When resting, manatees have been known to stay submerged for up to 20 minutes. Manatees can swim up to 20 miles per hour in short bursts, but they usually only swim about three to five miles per hour.

As with all wild animal populations, a certain percentage of manatee mortality is attributed to natural causes of death such as cold stress, gastrointestinal disease, pneumonia, and other diseases. A high number of additional fatalities are from human-related causes. Most human-related manatee fatalities occur from collisions with watercraft. Other causes of human-related manatee mortality include being crushed and/or drowned in canal locks and flood control structures; ingestion of fish hooks, litter, and monofilament line; and entanglement in crab trap lines. Ultimately, loss of habitat is the most serious threat facing manatees in the United States today. There is a minimum population count of 6,063 manatees as of February 2015, according to the most recent synoptic survey.

The Florida Manatee Recovery Plan was developed as a result of the Endangered Species Act. The recovery plan is coordinated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and sets forth a list of tasks geared toward recovering manatees from their current endangered status.

Pinellas County recognized the importance of manatee protection and instituted policies to protect seagrass beds and other habitats for endangered and threatened species. By early 1998, Pinellas County had completed updates and adopted significant revisions to the Comprehensive Plan to support such measures as enforcing no-wake zones and seagrass protection areas, and providing manatee caution signage.

Florida manatees were first protected through Florida State Law in 1893. Manatees are protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act (§379.2431(2), Florida Statutes) and are federally protected by both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. FWC continues to protect and conserve manatees and their habitat through special programs.
 
Guidelines for boating, diving and snorkling around manatees 
Coyotes
They're here to stay in Pinellas County. Pinellas County codes forbid molesting, feeding, or releasing wild or non-native animals within Pinellas County.

Coyotes are generally shy of people and are often difficult to spot. Coyotes who do not keep their distance should be avoided. Pinellas County Animal Services does not trap or remove coyotes or other wildlife. These animals may have lost their fear of people and could bite, or they may be sick, or even worse, carrying lethal rabies.
 
Coyote

Mangroves "Walking Trees" 



What are Mangroves?

Mangroves are one of Florida's true natives. They thrive in salty environments because they are able to obtain freshwater from saltwater. Some secrete excess salt through their leaves, others block absorption of salt at their roots.

Florida's estimated 469,000 acres of mangrove forests contribute to the overall health of the state's southern coastal zone. This ecosystem traps and cycles various organic materials, chemical elements, and important nutrients. Mangrove roots act not only as physical traps but provide attachment surfaces for various marine organisms. Many of these attached organisms filter water through their bodies and, in turn, trap and cycle nutrients.

The relationship between mangroves and their associated marine life cannot be overemphasized. Mangroves provide protected nursery areas for fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish. They also provide food for a multitude of marine species such as snook, snapper, tarpon, jack, sheepshead, red drum, oyster, and shrimp. Florida's important recreational and commercial fisheries will drastically decline without healthy mangrove forests.

Many animals find shelter either in the roots or branches of mangroves. Mangrove branches are rookeries, or nesting areas, for beautiful coastal birds such as brown pelicans and roseate spoonbills. 

  

These "Red Mangrove Seeds" are often seen along the coast

Mangrove seeds

Red Mangrove

Red Mangrove

Florida's

Mangroves

 

Worldwide, more than 50 species of mangroves exist. Of the three species found in Florida, the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) is probably the most well-known. It typically grows along the water's edge. The red mangrove is easily identified by its tangled, reddish roots called "prop-roots". These roots have earned mangroves the title, "walking trees". This mangrove, in particular, appears to be standing or walking on the surface of the water. 

Florida's mangroves are tropical species; therefore, they are sensitive to extreme temperature fluctuations as well as subfreezing temperatures. Research indicates that salinity, water temperature, tidal fluctuations, and soil also affect their growth and distribution. Mangroves are common as far north as Cedar Key on the Gulf coast and Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic coast.

People living along the south Florida coasts benefit many ways from mangroves. Mangrove forests protect uplands from storm winds, waves, and floods. The amount of protection afforded by mangroves depends upon the width of the forest. A very narrow fringe of mangroves offers limited protection, while a wide fringe can considerably reduce wave and flood damage to landward areas by enabling overflowing water to be absorbed into the expanse of forest. Mangroves can help prevent erosion by stabilizing shorelines with their specialized root systems. Mangroves also filter water and maintain water quality and clarity.

Mangrove Losses In Florida


It is true that mangroves can be naturally damaged and destroyed, but there is no doubt that human impact has been most severe. Florida Marine Research Institute scientists are studying changes in Florida's coastal habitats. The scientists are able to evaluate habitat changes by analyzing aerial photographs from the 1940's and 1950's and satellite imagery and aerial photography from the 1980's. Frequently the changes illustrate loss of mangrove acreage. Through researching the history of study sites, these losses are often attributed to human activities.

Tampa Bay, has experienced considerable change. It is one of the ten largest ports in the nation. Over the past 100 years, Tampa Bay has lost over 44 percent of its coastal wetlands acreage; this includes both mangroves and salt marshes.

The next major bay system south of Tampa Bay is Charlotte Harbor. Unlike Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor is one of the least urbanized estuarine areas in Florida. However, there has been some mangrove destruction here also. Punta Gorda waterfront development accounts for 59 percent of the total loss. An increase in mangrove acreage was noted in parts of the Harbor. This is due to changes in the system. As tidal flats were colonized by mangroves, tidal flat acreage decreased and mangrove acreage increased. Spoil islands, created as by-products of dredging, also provide suitable habitat for mangroves. 

The remaining 276 acres of mangroves occur in very small scattered areas and are now protected by strict regulations. 

State and local regulations have been enacted to protect Florida's mangrove forests. Please take a moment to read the "Mangrove Act" 
    

 
Mangroves are one of Florida's true natives and are part of our state heritage. It is up to us to ensure a place in Florida's future of one of our most valuable coastal resources - mangroves. 
  
The Pinellas County Extension is part of a nationwide network of land grant universities providing non-biased, research-based information to America's citizens. In our state, Extension's land grant link is the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences(IFAS). Pinellas County Extension serves as a bridge between the research labs of the university and the local community by providing educational opportunities for adults and youth.  For more information contact the Pinellas County Extension at 12520 Ulmerton Rd., Largo, FL 33774, 727-582-2100.

See Pinellas County's Homeowner Guidelines for Trimming Mangroves.
 
 

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

is Florida's lead agency for environmental management and is one of the more diverse agencies in state government - protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems. 
Sharks
Sharks have prowled the Earth's seas for over 400 million years. Their size, power, and tooth filled jaws fill us with fear and fascination. Among the most likely sharks to attack humans is the bull sharks and they favor shallow coastal waters, the same place humans prefer to swim.

Sharks belong to a family of fish that have skeletons made of cartilage, a tissue more flexible and lighter than bone. They breathe through a series of five to seven gill slits located on either side of their bodies. All sharks have multiple rows of teeth, and while they lose teeth on a regular basis, new teeth continue to grow in and replace those they lose. 

Shark ‘skin’ is made up of a series of scales that act as an outer skeleton for easy movement and for saving energy in the water. The upper side of a shark is generally dark to blend in with the water from above and their undersides are white or lighter colored to blend in with the lighter surface of the sea from below. This helps to camouflage them from predators and prey. 
Great White
Shark
Most species of shark eat things like fish, crustaceans, mollusks, plankton, krill, marine mammals and other sharks. Sharks also have a very acute sense of smell that allows them to detect blood in the water from miles away. 

It is difficult to estimate population numbers since there are many different species spanning a large geographic area. Sharks mature slowly, and reach reproductive age anywhere from 12 to 15 years. However, overall shark numbers are on the decline due to the many threats they face in the wild. This, combined with the fact that many species only give birth to one or two pups at a time, means that sharks have great difficulty recovering after their populations have declined. Soon after birth, shark pups swim away to fend for themselves and they are born with full sets of teeth and are able to feed and live on their own.
 
Sharks have adapted to living in a wide range of aquatic habitats at various temperatures. While some species inhabit shallow, coastal regions, others live in deep waters, on the ocean floor and in the open ocean. Some species, like the bull shark, are even known to swim in salt, fresh and brackish waters. 
 
Most sharks are especially active in the evening and night when they hunt. Some sharks migrate over great distances to feed and breed. This can take them over entire ocean basins. While some shark species are solitary, others display social behavior at various levels. Hammerhead sharks, for instance, school during mating season around seamounts and islands.

Some shark species, like the great white shark, attack and surprise their prey, usually seals and sea lions, from below. Species that dwell on the ocean floor have developed the ability to bottom-feed. Others attack schooling fish in a feeding frenzy, while large sharks like the whale and basking sharks filter feed by swimming through the ocean with their mouths open wide, filtering large quantities of plankton and krill.