For those of you lucky ones who have been to Andros South, you have undoubtedly noticed the miles of endless flats that this part of the world boasts, but one thing that commonly goes unnoticed are the Mangroves that line them. A mangrove is a small tree or shrub that lives in saline water. This type of coastal vegetation is the perfect habitat for protecting bonefish among other species and also has many ecological benefits as well.
This salt tolerate tree is able to thrive in some of the harshest conditions on the planet. They are perfectly adapted to live in a world of changing tides, temperatures and salinity levels. Part of the day they may be covered with salt water while part of the day they can be dry living in a saturated saline soil. From a fishery standpoint, the positive effects of an mangrove cannot be overstated. They are the perfect growing environment for young organisms. Their roots are fixed in an area causing them to be partially submerged for a portion of the day. This offers an anchoring spot for filter feeds like oysters, barnacles, and algae. Shrimp and crabs (ie bonefish snacks) live in the soft sand protected by the mangrove roots. They also provide habitat for young fish such as snapper and permit. For our favorite flats fish, they not only provide habitat for young bonefish to feed, they provide cover for large bonefish to travel inland during high tides. This gives them access to fresh food while still offering protection from their predators (people, barracuda, and sharks).
Mangroves from an environmental standpoint are important because of the erosion control they offer. They can protect the interior land from large storms (hurricanes) and tsunamis by absorbing and dissipating the power of the waves and wind. They serve as a coastal buffer.
Development has removed over half the world’s mangroves. Urbanization and shrimp farming are the biggest destroyers of mangroves worldwide. They are such an important part of a flats fishery yet they often do not receive the attention/respect they deserve. Next time you hook that trophy bonefish and he cleverly escapes into the mangroves, I hope you appreciate the plant system instead of cursing it.
More from Andros: