What’s the big deal about seagrasses?
Seagrass meadows are made up of plants that live under water in our local estuaries. Just like the grass and plants in our yards where many types of insects, worms and small animals live, seagrass meadows provide habitat for many types of young fish and invertebrates, such as crabs and shrimp.
Between 70 and 90% of fish, crabs and shrimp that recreational and commercial fishermen catch, spend some time during their life in seagrass beds. In 2014, the commercial fishing industry contributed nearly $140 million, while recreational fishing spending contributed $6 billion to Florida’s Economy. If we did not have healthy seagrasses, we would not have this economic impact on our coastal economies (http://gulffishinfo.org/Gulf-Fisheries-Economics).
· As seagrass blades move with the currents and tides, sediments are removed from the water, which contributes to improved water clarity.
· Seagrasses are the same type of plants that grow on land, they produce oxygen for marine life.
· Seagrasses filter excess nutrients from the water.
· Provide food and shelter for juvenile fish, shrimp and crabs.
· Endangered species such as manatees and green sea turtles depend on seagrass beds for food.
· Migratory birds depend on seagrass beds for foraging needs.
What can you do to help protect seagrasses?
• Avoid seagrass beds. If you do 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.
• Be safe and know water depths and locations of seagrass beds by studying navigational charts.
• Seagrasses are usually found in shallow water and appear as dark spots or patches. Wear polarized sunglasses (to reduce glare) to help locate these areas.
• Always choose to use a pump-out station for your marine sanitation device.
• Stay in marked channels.
• To reduce pollution from entering our waterways, keep a buffer of native plants along your shoreline. This will also help to protect your property from erosion and slow flood waters during storm events.
• To save money, plant native plants that don’t require a lot of fertilizers and pesticides. Avoid seagrass beds when planning for dredging activities or pier construction.
• Comply with Shoreline Protection construction codes
• Maintain septic tanks.
In your community:
• Families and children can get out and snorkel these areas! Many sites are easy to access from public parks.
• Get involved with local organizations that promote nature protection.
• Working together, we can share with community members what we have learned about seagrasses at the 20th annual Seagrass Awareness Celebration, March 6, 2020 from noon until 4 pm at Shoreline Park South in Gulf Breeze Fl.
• Don’t litter!
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