What are seagrasses?
If you’ve spent any time in Florida’s coastal waterways, you’ve surely encountered seagrasses. They are submerged grassy environments that typically thrive in rich sunlight and areas with clear water. They are filled with marine flowering plants and have a well-developed root system that anchors them to the sea floor.
These areas provide tangible benefits to their bodies of water. They stabilize sediments and prevent erosion along the coastlines.They also help with water clarity by removing sediments and nutrients from the water and trapping them within their environment.
Most importantly, they play home to 70 percent of commercial and recreational fish species, according to the Sea Grant Florida. Sea turtles and thousands of other marine life use these lush areas for feeding.
Understanding the importance seagrasses play, both in their environment and for the animal life that feeds in it, we as boaters have a responsibility to help protect these areas.
The impact of damaged seagrasses
When boating over seagrasses, propellers cut through the grass, leaving it fragmented and potentially trapping or restricting the movement of wildlife species. It will take seagrasses anywhere from months to years to recover, and if the root systems are damaged, they may never fully grow back.
If protecting Florida’s waters and wildlife aren’t enough, consider that your boat is also more likely to be grounded in a seagrass bed, where bottoms are often shallower. This can cause damage to engines, hulls, and propellers, plus force you to incur towing fees.
How to avoid seagrass beds
Avoiding seagrasses while boating is simple. They are typically visible, particularly if you’re wearing polarized sunglasses. Look for signs and markers that indicate seagrass beds and stay aware of your depth and err on the side of caution if it becomes too shallow.
As Florida boaters, we have a responsibility to preserve our waterways and rich wildlife. Staying aware and avoiding seagrasses is one simple, but meaningful way to do your part.