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January's Shoreline Spotlight

A monthly submission from the Marine Resources Task Force

January 3, 2018
By Bill Veach, MRTF Chair , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Moulay Bousselham is a small beach town on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Fishermen and tourist, including seasonal European residents, drive the economy. Their population ranges from about 3,000 to 60,000 depending on the season. My wife and I were visiting in a low season, so the town was sleepy and traffic free. We know from Fort Myers Beach that things change with the season. Moulay is a term of respect and Moulay Bousselham is named after a 10th century Egyptian saint. People suffering from mental illnesses were locked in the tomb of Moulay Bousselham for 24 hours with the belief that it would cure them. Sounds more like a cause than a cure, but who I am to argue with tradition.

There are differences, their sand is brown, the climate is Mediterranean temperate. Huge waves were crashing on the reef and there was a swift, dangerous and clearly visible rip tide flowing along the beach and out through gaps in the reef. And we were in Morocco.

Like Fort Myers Beach, Moulay Bousselham has an estuary and an internationally important area for birds. Some birds winter here and others stop for a bit during migration. October is the start of the winter bird season, but like Fort Myers Beach, a slow time for tourism. Moulay Bousselham sits on the mouth of a river and a large estuary has formed inland of the coastal dunes. There are no mangroves here, just a large shallow and brackish area that sweetens when the winter rains in the mountains cause the river to swell. Like our Estero Aquatic Preserve, the estuary contains productive fish nurseries and shellfish beds.

Article Photos

Moulay Bousselham is a small beach town on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Photo by Bill Veach.

We were here for the birds. Our guide met us at our hotel near the edge of town and we started walking and talking, well walking and haggling. We stopped along the away and picked up three Spanish men who also came to town for the birds. We all piled into the Spaniard's small car and went to the town "dock." The dock was more of a beach with wooden boats moored in a deeper channel that was bound by a large sandbar. The situation reminded me of the view of the shrimp boat fleet from the Matanzas Pass Bridge. I noticed other tourists loading up for tours, but the area is large and we didn't see them during the tour. We settled on our wooden plank benches and crawled into the river. The small wooden boats are used for off-shore fishing, but they were stuck in port due to the high surf.

Our guide showed a deep passion and knowledge for the birds. He pointed out kingfishers almost immediately, then a parade of gulls and terns, both rare and common. Some of the birds found on Fort Myers Beach can also be found in Moulay Bousselham, including the black fronted plover, and our treasured little rare iron-man the red knot. There was a good variety of those fascinatingly specialized shore birds with freakishly long and oddly curved beaks like curlews and godwits. But, why come all this way to see what we have on our own seven-mile, sandy Serengeti? There were flamingos, but they weren't pink, and the delicate looking slender billed gull, some of which displayed a light pink breast. Pink seagulls would complement our roseate spoonbills. The waterways are all wake-less speed, mostly because the wood boats and old, small outboard motors were in capable of generating any perceptible wake. Low tide was coming and the receding water exposed large swaths of mud flats. These flats were full of feeding birds and gathering humans. Dozens of villagers were looking for different kinds of shellfish and worms. Our guide gently picked deeper channels, then polled us to get closer to a flock of flamingos until the receding waters forced us to retreat.

It was an interesting experience being somewhere so different from home, yet with so many obvious similarities. Birds, beach, season residents, tourists and eco-tourism are significant features for both of us. The people have embraced the birds as an attraction for visitors, especially during slow seasons. Eco-tourism creates sustainable and low impact tourism that benefits wildlife and businesses. Fort Myers Beach and Moulay Bousselham both have attractions and thriving eco-tourism potential. They have a shrine for fertility, we have spring break. Now if we only had a cave. Now, I am not suggesting that we incarcerate people suffering from mental illness, but maybe a safe place for some visitors to sober up.

Fact Box

January's "Murphy" Award

This week's Murphy award goes to Scott Saveraid. When Scott and Anne Saveraid bought a beach house in 2010 there was a large swath of dunes on the beach. Tropical Storm Debbie washed many of them out and Scott replanted several hundred plants. Scott volunteered to participate in the Marine Resources Task Force Beachscape Demonstration Program in 2013 and planted more dune vegetation. Scott says he has noticed how the plants built up a significant dune that helped protect his property during Hurricane Irma. Scott said many plants washed away during the storm, but that he had greater sand depth in his yard after Irma. They like the look, protection and privacy that the plants provide. MTRF would like to thank Scott for helping protect and beautify the beach by planting and maintaining a function dune system.

Have you observed anyone doing good deeds on the beach? Submit them for the monthly Murphy award by emailing Rae Burns at The Marine Resources Task Force's next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 10 at 4:30 p.m. in council chambers. We will be discussing plastic trash, the adopt a beach program and other topics. The public is encouraged to attend and comment.



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