Inactivity on Collier County Beaches Helps the Ecosystem Heal

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NAPLES, Fla. – Swimming advisories and the rebuilding process from Hurricane Ian have driven a number of typical tourists away from our shores in Collier County.

“There have been weeks where we have been locked up due to lack of water and lack of electricity. The animals react quickly, ”said Professor Billy Gunnels, who teaches biology and behavior animal at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU).

The lack of fishing, swimming and walking on sand has encouraged a large increase in wildlife near many beaches.

“They appeared in numbers as soon as we became inactive. This hurricane was incredibly disruptive and incredibly disruptive to our movement, our activities and what we were doing,” Gunnels said.

Animals like pelicans and other seabirds have created a kind of nesting place at the edge of the Naples pier, now destroyed.

“It would not be surprising to see that the presence of people has a great effect. When people stop coming to a place, animals come back very quickly,” Gunnels said.

Through the waterways you can find dolphins and manatees extremely close to shore.

“People don’t go to the beach in numbers, and the animals will take advantage of that environment as soon as it’s available,” Gunnels said.

Just because animals swim in the water doesn’t mean it’s safe for humans. The most recent test results for the bacteria from Collier County Waterkeeper show high levels in Naples, Marco Island and along the coast.

“I think it’s a sign that our ecosystem is healing. It’s also a sign that we’re doing a pretty good job of trying to fit in with the environment. These animals live right next to us. — because we do a good job, and when that environment becomes available… like a beach… they’re right over it,” Gunnels said.

The influx of animals, however, is temporary. As we return to normal life after Ian, our coastal ecosystems will also return.

“As soon as we get back to normal, as soon as we start showing up at the beach…it’s not that we’re intentionally interfering with the animals, we’re just now occupying the space, and they’ll go find other areas with less ongoing activity,” Gunnels said.

Currently, the Florida Department of Health in Collier County still has a swimming advisory in effect for all beaches. Signage is posted at each beach access point.

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