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Florida Pays Tribute to the State's Seagrasses

Governor Scott names March 2013 Seagrass Awareness Month

Governor Rick Scott proclaimed March 2013 Seagrass Awareness Month, the 12th annual statewide recognition from the Executive Office of the Governor. As noted in the Governor's proclamation, "awareness of the problems facing this vital natural resource will help to create an understanding of the way seagrass damage can impact both the economic and ecological value of our marine resources." Recreational divers, snorkelers and fishing enthusiasts from around the world visit Florida's coastal areas to experience the state's world-class marine resources and more than 90% of Florida's recreational and commercial fisheries depend on seagrasses for part of their lifespan.

"Seagrass habitat provides a variety of functions that contribute to a healthy and viable marine ecosystem," said Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas Director, Kevin Claridge. "These valuable underwater grasses are one of the many natural resources that Floridians and visitors can work together to protect and preserve now and for future generations."

Considered to be one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, seagrasses are flowering underwater grasses found in estuaries, lagoons and shallow, open shelves along Florida's coastline. Florida is home to seven species of seagrass. The multimillion-dollar recreational and commercial fishing industry depends on healthy seagrasses to protect young fish and shellfish, coral reefs and other marine wildlife, including sea turtles, manatees and wading birds. A single acre of seagrass may support as many as 40,000 fish.

Over the years, Florida has established 41 aquatic preserves whose mission includes protecting this essential marine resource. Education and outreach is just one element of this protection. For example, the Gasparilla Sound-Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve program in Charlotte County monitors seagrass health at 52 stations located on 160,000 acres. The Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve, which spans more than 980,000 acres, has a monitoring project that evaluates current conditions and identifies management needs of this vital resource. Additionally, preservation efforts at Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties are helping to save Johnson's seagrass, a threatened seagrass that exists only in southeast Florida.

Seagrass destruction is a serious problem and has become more intense and widespread. Boaters can help to protect this vital resource by following these tips:

  • Know the waters where you plan to boat.
  • Use current nautical charts of the area.
  • Use marked channels where they exist and stay in deep water.
  • When in doubt about the depth, slow down and idle. Make sure the bow of the boat is down and the motor is trimmed or tilted up.
  • Know the tides. The greatest range of tides occurs during a full-moon and new-moon. Use extra caution when boating on a low tide.
  • If you do run into a seagrass flat, stop immediately and tilt your engine.

For more information on Florida's seagrasses, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/habitats/seagrass/

To view the Governor's proclamation for Seagrass Awareness Month, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/habitats/seagrass/awareness/Proclamation_2013.pdf

Johnson's seagrass

Johnson's seagrass


Last updated: March 04, 2013

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