Did you know that each acre of seagrass can support as many as 40,000 fish and 50 million invertebrates? The grassy beds provide both food and shelter to an astounding mass of commercial and recreational fishery species, resulting in a shocking impact on Florida’s seafood industry when they are damaged.
Because beds are primarily located in shallow water, seagrass is being cut down at an alarming rate, most commonly falling victim to motorboat propellers.
Damage can be done in five seconds to the hundreds of thousands of acres of seagrass beds in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida’s bays and lagoons and yet take between five and 50 years to heal!
How, exactly, does seagrass relate to our diets? Take a look at a few seafood favorites affected.
Conch and Stone Crab- Seagrass provides both residence and occasional sustenance to the Florida stone crab and the conch, both Florida delicacies.
Octopus and Grouper- Florida stone crab proves to not only be a human favorite, but a dining option for both octopus and grouper as well.
Pink Shrimp- Calling seagrass beds home in their juvenile stage, pink shrimp enjoy the coverage before heading farther into the water.
Water Purification- As the first point of contact, seagrass beds aid in the filtration of land-based industrial discharge and storm water runoff before being washed out to sea.
Fortunately, conservation work to protect this vital marine resource remains strong. Whether it be bringing in bird feces (yes, bird feces!) to provide nutrients, sediment tubes to fill the trenches or enhancing boater education and prevention, The Nature Conservancy is creating solutions to the problem.