The nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida recently announced a $65,000 grant to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to restore native freshwater mussels in Lake Trafford, located in Collier County.
In the late 1990s, Lake Trafford was inundated with non-native hydrilla, which led to the accumulation of organic sediment (muck) and resulted in poor water quality and frequent fish kills. To restore the once productive sportfishing lake, a restoration task force created a three-phase plan, which included the removal of muck, re-establishment of native habitats and the reduction of nutrient loading into the waterbody. By 2010, restoration efforts successfully removed six million cubic yards of muck, and native fish and vegetation were re-established through stocking and planting projects. In the past ten years, significant increases in the biomass of many popular sport fish were detected, including largemouth bass, redear sunfish, bluegill and black crappie.
FWC is now taking the next step in restoring Lake Trafford by introducing native freshwater mussels to its habitat. Because of their natural filtering ability, reestablishing Lake Trafford’s mussel population has the potential to improve water quality and clarity, allow light to reach the lakebed and stimulate growth of native aquatic vegetation where fish thrive.
“Florida is synonymous with fishing. We are hopeful that this project can provide a blueprint for future freshwater fisheries restoration,” said Foundation President and CEO Andrew Walker. “It’s a proven approach that uses natural tools to solve complex environmental challenges. We are excited to contribute to its success.”
The grant was approved by the Foundation’s board of directors at their March meeting. Funds come from the Conserve Wildlife Florida license plate, which displays the image of a Florida black bear. Twenty-five dollars from each purchase of the “bear tag” supports the conservation of Florida’s rare species and other nongame wildlife. The Foundation is in the process of updating the license plate’s design.