Little Edwards, Big Edwards, Jim Neville Marine Preserve and Skier’s Islands
Island cleanups get high school students involved in the stewardship of the bay they inherit. Roberts Bay contains three unique spoil islands created by the dredging of the inter-coastal waterway. These islands include Skiers Island, Big Edwards Island, Little Edwards Island, and Jim Neville Marine Preserve. The boating community uses these islands for many reasons including picnicking, birdwatching, ecotourism, and recreation areas just to name a few. Sarasota Bay Watch has been involved with debris cleanups on all of these islands. For many years Sarasota Bay Watch has organized volunteers to clean up trash and debris, sometimes transporting hundreds of pounds away for proper disposal. We strive to improve the condition of these islands specifically to benefit the wildlife and make the islands safe for eco-tour interaction.
Our current initiatives with these islands are to clean up debris, remove invasive plant species, improve the ecosystem for wildlife, improve the island for safe human interaction. In the future, we see these islands being a destination for marine wildlife enthusiasts, and for environmentally conscious people.
The Big Edwards Island Cleanups have been conducted with the Cornerstone Club at Riverview High School.
The Skier’s Island Cleanups were conducted with Riverview High School’s National Honor Society, the Marine Biology Club and Sarasota High Marine Club.
Jim Neville Marine Preserve is cleaned with students from Pine View School.
Little Edwards Island has been cleaned up with the help of the Sarasota High School Marine Biology Club.
The Sister Keys are a shining example of the restorative power of nature. Every May Sarasota Bay Watch volunteers participate in the Sister Keys Cleanup. This popular event is based out of the Mar Vista Restaurant. The success of events like the Sister Keys clean up shows that the public is eager to get involved with the health of the bay. When you give citizens an opportunity to get their feet wet they gain a new appreciation of the resource.
Clean ups not only help maintain the natural diversity of the islands, but also give participants a way to learn about the bay and get invested in the continued health of the resource. Future events are being planned to maintain the restoration by keeping invasive species from once again gaining a foothold on the islands.
The Sister Keys were covered with Australian pines before the restoration in 2007. Removing the pine eliminated the shade and acid forming pine straw making way for other plants to flourish and create a healthy native and robust environment. The planting of native flora and the creation of a one acre wetland created the healthy and robust environment you see today where diverse species from fiddler crabs to ibis and roseate spoonbills abound.
The waters that surround the keys are filled with shallow sea grass beds, one of the most important and productive habitats in Sarasota Bay. These areas are a nursery for many fish including snook, redfish, sea trout and flounder. They provide a home, protection and a food source for countless other species like shrimp, crabs, oysters, scallops and even manatees.
In 2010, Sarasota Bay Watch adopted the Sister Keys through an agreement with Longboat Key. Yearly clean ups have been conducted since 2009, and plans are being formulated to work with Longboat Key to maintain the islands’ natural diversity.
The Sister Keys were protected in 1992 through the efforts of a coalition of citizens named the Sister Keys Conservancy partnering with the town of Longboat Key. Saving The Sister Keys: The Sister Keys Conservancy works to save the Sister Keys from development 1989-1992
From 2007-2011 a one million dollar mitigation project removed all invasive floras, replacing them with native species and creating a two-acre wetland. The islands are now one of the best examples of a thriving native marine environment on the west coast of Florida.The Sister Keys Mitigation Project 2007-2011