Boaters asked to lift, drift, pole and troll
CORPUS CHRISTI—There is a luxurious underwater world in Texas bays and estuaries that plays a starring role in maintaining the health of the Gulf of Mexico and its inhabitants.
Meadows of seagrass offer shelter to the juvenile shrimp, shellfish and sport fish that cling to the shadows of protective turtlegrass, shoalgrass and manateegrass.
Speckled sea trout and redfish shelter here in their own quest for maturity, as sea turtles, crabs and water birds come to feed and rest.
However, these vitally important systems are in rapid decline. Carelessly used boat propellers are largely to blame. They chew up the plants in shallow water, threatening the many species reliant on the variety of grasses, and scar the sediment, making it more difficult for the plants to reestablish themselves.
“Anglers, hunters and recreational boaters have a great stake in helping to protect seagrasses because of their love of their sport and of being out on the water in nature, so we’re confident these individuals will provide a strong constituency for seagrass protection,” said Rafael Calderon, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program.
The numbers are daunting: shoalgrass has decreased by 60 percent in 20 years, while areas totally de-vegetated have increased almost three-fold.
To counter this trend, The Nature Conservancy and partner organizations launched a program to encourage boaters to use voluntary marked boat lanes in the shallows of the upper Laguna Madre.
Those boating in shallow waters outside these designated lanes are asked to “lift, drift, pole and troll” to protect seagrass. That is: drift into the shallows, lift your propeller, pole to get from place to place or use a trolling motor to maneuver.