RIVIERA, Texas — An 18 month endeavor is underway for the initiative of "Bringing Baffin Back."
For some time, Dr. Michael Wetz and his team from the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC), alongside the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP), have been analyzing Baffin Bay’s health. Their results found the water has been nutrient polluted for years.
Now, their initiative has been named a conservation wrangler by Texan By Nature.
"Baffin Bay is just this iconic bay system," Wetz said, Chair for Coastal Ecosystem Processes at Harte Research Institute. "It's so well known for supporting an incredible fishery and as a consequence of that, it really has a major impact on the economy of the surrounding counties."
Conservation Wrangler is an accelerated program in Texas that pairs projects up with people and resources who can help a conservation project with a return on conservation of people, ecosystems and impact local economies.
“What the research is showing is it’s coming from a lot of different things," said Wetz. "It’s coming from the lands, it’s coming from failing infrastructure like failing water treatment infrastructure, there’s some indication it’s coming from septic tanks too. So, it's a lot of different things that we're looking at...
One of the things we found, last year, when we were out on some of the creeks that ultimately flow into the bay, is there are some very obvious illegal dumping sites. You know household items, garbage, you name it.”
Baffin Bay has been a long standing hot spot for fishermen. And that creates a trickle down affect for the local communities.
Alejandro Munoz likes to spend his days off work, fishing. Baffin Bay has been a common place for his family to come from Duval county.
"There’s always something new to catch around here stingrays, little sharks, drums, reds," he said. "Just a variety of different animals out here."
"This community depends so heavily on the bay," Dr. Kiersten Stanzel said, director of partnerships at CBBEP. "It’s an ecotourism destination that’s known, not just locally, for it’s great fishing both recreation and commercial fishing, but throughout the state.”
Munoz said he’s noticed big game fish haven’t been around for a while. He welcomes a change to Baffin Bay.
“It’ll actually increase the population of fish in general. With all the pollution right now, who knows how much it’s hurting. If they clean it up it’ll affect the bay. More people might come out fishing. More people might spend more free time out here with their family. Just a variety of things might happen.”
Only four projects in Texas we're selected to be a Conservation Wrangler.
Dr. Wetz said he’s begun meetings with Conservation Wrangler to get the ball rolling on cleaning up Baffin Bay.