FMB Friends of Arts Event

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4th SWFL Sustains Dinner

The Fort Myers Beach Friends of The Arts hosted its 4th Annual “SWFL Sustains Dinner – A Seafood Experience” on Wednesday, November 13, at the Coste Island Cuisine Restaurant in the DiamondHead Resort from 6 to 8 p.m. The roughly 75 guests savored sustainable seafood samplings from Coste as well as the Dixie Fish Company, Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, Fish-Tale Waterfront Dining and The Whale, while enjoying musical entertainment by the “Pearl Street Band.” All proceeds benefit the FMB Friends of The Arts.

Third Time The Charm

James Evans, the Director of Natural Resources for the City of Sanibel, ended up being the emergency guest speaker! The original two were to be David Wolff, Executive Director of Ocean Habitats, Inc., but business called him out of the area, while the flu bug felled Dr. Greg Tolley, the Florida Gulf Coast University professor who is Executive Director of The Water School. “Even though I am the third choice,” joked Evans, “I will do my best!”

Evans explained, “We are in the middle of a water quality crisis right now, and not just here in Southwest Florida, but throughout the entire state and beyond, and not just in our coastal communities but in our creeks, canals, springs and other water bodies. We need all business owners and people who live in Florida to address water quality, to avoid the economic disaster we faced in 2018 and to maintain and improve our overall quality of life and health, as water affects all these things.”

He felt our region hit its tipping point in 2018, between Red Tide and Blue-Green Algae, “especially when a 26-foot, 20,000-pound whale shark washed up on Sanibel last July 22 that ultimately became the first one we know of to die from Red Tide. Now every time there are any Red Tide or Blue-Green Algae issues, the media pulls out those worst-case photographs from last year, so those images become reoccurring nightmares we must deal with. Our Sanibel Mayor, Kevin Ruane, this year is President of the Florida League of Mayors, and that group made water quality their number one priority and that says a lot because of all the issues out there, this is the one they chose.”

Evans touched on a broad range of topics, from the Caloosahatchee River watershed to Lake Okeechobee, septic tanks to fertilizers, the US Army Corps of Engineers to agricultural interests, and more in his roughly 30-minute presentation. “The key message I want you to take home is that what we do in our own backyards has a major influence on water quality, so we must all do our part – if you use fertilizers on your lawn, you make an impact.”

Regardless of your politics, Evans stressed, “you have to be impressed by Governor Ron DeSantis, who in his first 48 hours in office made water quality an earnest priority by requesting $625 million and the Legislature came forward with more than that, at $684 million. I believe the biggest factor for us this year was when Governor DeSantis removed the entire previous South Florida Water Management District Board and replaced them with people with water quality and environmental issues at the top of their lists, including Sanibel’s Chauncey Goss as the new Chair. That is a big deal and great for Southwest Florida!”

Available & Accessible Arts

FMB Friends of the Arts began in November 2011 when several residents decided the island needed an organization to promote all kinds of art on and around the beach, whether it be theater, fine arts, or its many musicians. Since its inception, the group hosts the Sustainability Dinner, FMB Film Festival, Winter Concert Series and more. The Greater Fort Myers Beach Friends of the Arts is a 501(c)3 tax-deductible charitable organization that facilitates and funds arts presentations to enhance economic conditions and our quality of life by making the arts available and accessible to everyone. For more information on the FMB Friends of The Arts, see fmbarts.org.

To obtain a list of sustainable seafood items, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide at bit.ly/seafoodisp