Overall water quality in Tampa Bay is as good as it was during the 1950s despite 400% population growth in watershed areas. Seagrasses are also returning to the bay at a record pace of 660 acres per year. Unfortunately, Old Tampa Bay and the waters surrounding Dana Shores are not enjoying the same success as the rest of the bay.
The water was what attracted many of us to this community, and its quality is important to us and the marine life it supports. Fortunately, there are several easy but highly impactful steps we can all take to help restore our water quality, keep pollutants down, and maintain boat clearance. Please help out by doing your part.
Dana Shores also provides many homeowners with relatively unique property rights that allow us to address concerns, such as crab traps, throughout most of our area. This is explained in the last tab.
Most Dana Shores and Pelican Island lawns are cared for by a resident-owned company, Southern Florida Landscaping. Bart Butler, president and owner, supports our water quality initiatives and expects his team to keep all yard waste from flying into canals or going down storm drains. If you see a member of his team improperly managing or disposing of yard waste, Bart asks that you please take a picture or video of the incident so that he may address the problem. You may send pictures/videos to Bart at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact him directly at 813-486-3727.
Landscaping along the bike path to the south of Dana Shores (Bayport Drive) is maintained by Rainmaker. At least one resident has provided video showing crew members blowing debris into the canal, and this information allowed us to immediately address the issue. If you witness such an event, please take video and email this email@example.com so we may take appropriate follow-up action.
If a contractor ignores your request to keep our waterways clean, you may report water pollution using your Smartphone. Snap a picture of the person committing the act and email it along with the location to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hillsborough County representatives will follow up on your request. If you believe the contaminate to be oil, fuel, or another hazardous material, please call the Florida Office of Emergency Response at 800-320-0519.
The simple act of picking up your dog’s poop on your walks and at least twice a week from your yard (preferably on days before your lawn is watered) keep our waters safer for fish, marine life, and family members.
If you fertilize the lawn on your own, local law also requires that you follow the BMPs.
Please report oil, fuel, and hazardous spills in Florida waters to 800-320-0519.
What Concerns Were Raised about the Crab Traps?
Placement of the traps caused several homeowners concern over safety and liability. We received multiple reports from residents whose boat propellers became entangled in the traps. In one of the more serious cases, a single boat suffered nearly $20,000 of damage. Concerns were raised over crabbers’ nighttime activity. Several property owners’ rights were also infringed upon when traps were placed behind their boat lifts, interfering with safe navigation into and out of the waterways.
What Rights Do the Crab Trappers Have?
Commercial blue crab harvesters may place their traps in open waters and navigable channels if relevant statutes are met. Among other things, traps must be placed outside of USCG marked channels (typically identified by red/green markers), buoys must be properly marked, and traps may not be placed on private property. Interference with a properly placed crab trap (e.g., removing the trap, relocating the trap, and removing crabs) carries penalties of up to five years in jail and $5,000 in fines.
What Rights do Dana Shores Homeowners Have?
Here is another reason to love Dana Shores. Our community is uniquely platted, and most homeowners own the submerged lands behind their homes about halfway into the canal. Hillsborough County possesses an easement to these canals for drainage purposes and federal law requires open navigation of our waterways. Dana Shores homeowners do, however, have the right to trespass non-residents who disturb or place items (such as crab traps) directly onto their submerged lands. Individuals who are trespassed will receive an initial warning. Repeat violations could result in fines up to $500, charges of a second-degree misdemeanor, arrest, and up to 30 days in jail.
What Does This Mean?
The civic association notified FWC of the complaints we received and, in turn, FWC worked with the crabbers to educate them and have them remove traps from resident-owned lands. Traps may remain in the basin at Bahama Breeze and along the south side of the channel that runs east-west along the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Boaters should be aware of this hazard, especially when navigating at night.
If trappers return to our neighborhood properties, we will again ask FWC to assist us with their removal and to provide a notice of trespass if appropriate. If you notice widespread issues, you may contact the Dana Shores Civic Association at email@example.com for assistance and to provide information that can help speed up the process (e.g., any pictures you can safely take showing the crab boat’s FL numbers and days of the week/times of day the trappers visit their traps). Now that we know more, we should be able to act swiftly should the issue recur.
For related issues affecting single residents, please call FWC at 813-558-5050 and press #7 to reach an FWC dispatcher. Please do not harass the trappers or their traps, as there can be serious consequences. Instead, explain to FWC that crabbers are placing traps on private property in canals and request help. Because of the unique platting of our neighborhood, you will likely need to share some of the above information as context.
There are many good, responsible captains navigating our canals, and there are exceptions too. It’s those few exceptions that cause our neighborhood some heartburn. Excessive speed can lead to accidents, close calls around blind corners, harm to manatees, and property damage.
We’ve established a partnership that relies on reporting from our community volunteers and training and enforcement from the rental operators. Our volunteers are expected to provide accurate descriptions of watercraft that violate wake zones, report incidents immediately and without discrimination to any class, follow agreed upon practices associated with this program, and maintain a collaborative working relationship with the rental facility. In return, rental operators are taking extraordinary efforts to educate renters regarding all local speed zones, requiring renters sign a related policy, fining violators, and (depending on the seriousness of the offense) immediately revoking an operator’s driving privileges or placing the operator on a no-repeat-rental list.
The success of this program relies heavily upon our volunteers, the level of trust they establish with the owners of the rental facility, and keeping our volunteers to a manageable number while providing adequate geographic coverage. Volunteers must, therefore, participate in a joint training and must be approved by both the civic association and the rental facility to be involved in this program. You may email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn more.