Activity: Estuary Issues

Estuaries, like any wetlands, are controversial. The controversy arises when people have divergent viewpoints over the use of these areas. As the population grows toward coastal regions, coastal wetlands and estuaries are changed to provide needed facilities. This may become a problem in areas where wetland use is not agreed upon by the community. Each of us, once recognizing a problem exists, must take a stand!

The following is a scenario which contains several points of controversy. By identifying the problems and working toward mutually beneficial solutions, people on different sides of the issue feel validated and satisfied.

Scenario: Fishing Rodeo

A red and blue banner hung across the entrance to the park, "Fishing Rodeo Today." Hannah, flipped her baseball cap around to get a better view of the competition. Yes, Jamal and Roberto had shown up, but so had Darryl, Brandon, and Mai Ling. All of the most avid fishers in the sixth grade had plopped down $3.00 each to compete in "The biggest fish caught" event at the park near the shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

The sun was just peaking through the clouds while various bait was being passed around. Hannah brought her special bait: a new shiny hook, shrimp aged just so, and a container of fresh worms, just in case. Hannah loved to fish. She had a trophy from the same rodeo each year, winning either the biggest or the smallest fish in her age class. Almost everyone got some kind of prize. The local Saltwater Fishing Club sponsored the event each year.

As the morning lengthened the sixth grade group grew discouraged. Not only Hannah, but Jamal and Roberto and all of the others were unable to catch a fish, any fish! The members of the fishing club murmured, "No good fishing today; fishing's been poor since the new subdivision was built." Hannah looked closely at the water. Water which was once moderately clear lake water was now milky with sediment washed from the graded new lots. Algae, green and stringy, was clinging to the rip rap and logs in the water. As she walked along the shore paint cans, rags, bits of insulation, tar and cans of wood preservative dotted the shore. Why was this development so important?

Hannah ran back to join her sixth grade friends. Their discouraged faces greeted her. Roberto called a greeting, "Hey, Hannah, where ya been?" Hannah echoed back, "Down to see the edge of the development!" Jamal said, "That's where my Dad works, Hannah!" Hannah exclaimed, "Your Dad works at the new development! You should see the mess there, and I'll bet all of that has something to do with our not being able to catch fish."

Hannah, Jamal, Roberto, Darryl, Mai Ling and Brandon all started talking at once. They remembered their teacher, Ms. Morrison, telling them about how jobs in the area were important and how wetlands (the lands adjacent to waterbodies, which are wet during certain times of the year) are important to fisheries, such as, crabs, oysters, juvenile fish and other species. Mr. Martin, president of the Fishing Club, saw the animated group and came over to join them. He explained that the shore of the Lake has changed over the last few years due to the demand for land for development and that local environmentalists in the region suspected it had an impact on fishing in the area. Yet, said Mr. Martin, all communities need businesses and industry because of the jobs they provide.

After a day in the sun with her friends, Hannah gathered her special fishing gear and walked under the shady oaks toward home. A fancy sign caught her eye from the development site, "A Special Home Can Be Yours"... but not for the fish!, thought Hannah.

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