By Cameron Baxley
August 2023–Never pass up the invitation to go out on the boat with a third generation blue crabber. You’ll hear stories you’ve never heard, learn things you never knew, and go places you’ve never been.
Former Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire, Dr. Andy Gannon, and I got an invitation from longtime local blue crabber Kevin Martina to learn more about the current status of blue crabs and their preferred habitat in East Bay. When Kevin asked me “You want me to drive my boat or you want to drive your boat?,” I figured we’d spend less time pushing the boat off mud and sand flats if Kevin drove. And I was right. Kevin knew exactly when and where to turn and buzzed through creeks that weren’t even showing up on my map.
Maybe you’ve heard folks saying that the Bay is filling up with sand. Blue Crabs, ducks, manatees, and some other species may prefer rich, muddy areas that are able to grow other types of grass that sandy areas cannot support.
That’s what we set out to learn with Kevin. As a third generation blue crabber, Kevin is a wealth of information about changes in the Bay. His father, Billy Martina, is my neighbor and even at 94 years young, I’ll look out my window on a lazy Saturday morning and see Billy out there mowing the lawn and weed-eating the ditches. The Martinas are a hard-working family.
Kevin, Kevin’s father, Billy, and Kevin’s grandfather, Joseph, have noticed that over the span of three generations areas in the Bay that were deep with rich, soft mud are now filling up with sand. It seems to be causing the Bay to shallow up in certain areas. It’s also changing what’s living in those areas. Kevin catches more crabs in areas with thick mud. To look at what plants are living in the different areas of mud and sand, Dr. Gannon brought out a Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Surveying Device, aka his wife’s gardening rake. Turns out sometimes the simplest tool is the best tool for the job.
These complex systems sometimes make finding a solution about as clear as mud. Fortunately, Apalachicola Riverkeeper staff loves working in the mud. We hope to continue work with folks like Kevin and other stakeholders and agencies, to figure how to keep our Bay and River healthy, allowing us to have plenty more crab boils in the future.
Cameron Baxley is Riverkeeper at Apalachicola Riverkeeper. She prefers caught, not bought dinner. But if fishing doesn’t turn to catching, locally bought seafood is just fine by her. Cameron be reached at [email protected]