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Seagrass Awareness in Florida

Chris Verlinde
Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent
Santa Rosa County
chrismv@ufl.edu

Seagrasses are a valuable part of the marine environment and support a thriving million-dollar fishery. Most commercial and recreationally important fish, crabs and shrimp spend some time of their lives in seagrass beds. These grass beds help to filter toxins from the water, contribute to water clarity by trapping suspended sediments, provide food and shelter for juvenile fish, shrimp and crabs. In addition, endangered species such as manatees and green sea turtles depend on seagrass beds for food! Migratory birds depend on seagrass beds for foraging needs! Threats to these important resources include: degraded water quality, dredge and fill projects and physical impacts from boat propellers. 

Turtle grass and manatee grass. Photo Credits: Lauren M. Hall, SJRWMD

“Seagrass …..it’s alive” is the motto for this initiative. Get involved, and help spread the word about seagrasses! Be creative and provide educational opportunities for your friends, neighbors, fisher-people, boaters and those concerned about water quality.

Many different types of animals live in seagrass beds. Photo Credits: Andrew Diller

What can you do to protect seagrasses?

While boating:

  • If you run aground in a seagrass bed, turn off your engine, tilt up the engine and walk or pole your boat out of the shallow water.
  • Know water depths and locations of seagrass beds by studying navigational charts.
  • Seagrasses are usually found in shallow water and appear as dark spots on the water.  Wear polarized sunglasses (to reduce glare) to help to locate these areas.
  • Always use a pump-out station.
  • Stay in marked channels.

At home:

  • To reduce toxins and sediment from entering our waterways, keep a buffer of natural vegetation along your shoreline. This will also reduce erosion and slow flood waters during storm events, which will help protect your property!
  • To reduce excess nutrients, plant native plants that don’t require high amounts of fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Avoid seagrass beds when planning for dredging activities or pier construction.
  • Maintain septic tanks.

In the community:

  • Get out and snorkel these incredibly diverse areas!  Many sites are easy to access from public parks.
  • Get involved with local organizations that promote water quality.
  • Tell others what you have learned.
  • Don’t litter!

Panhandle Outdoors

Permanent link to this article: http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2012/04/12/seagrass-awareness-in-florida/

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