Seagrass is making a comeback in St. Andrew Bay

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 8:31 PM CDT
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Seagrass is making a comeback in St. Andrew Bay thanks to a hands-on project.

While seagrass might not look like much, the impact it has on life underwater dives deep.

“It provides habitat for young fish. Even just planting out here, we have schools of pinfish following us. And it’s a food source. We’ve seen a lot of animals eating the grass from snails, of course, the pinfish will pick on it, blue crabs,” Sea & Shoreline biologist Katie Kramer said.

It’s a habitat that’s been getting smaller and smaller in the West Bay area. Experts say it’s due to man-made causes and water quality issues over the last several decades.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission partnered with Sea & Shoreline to bring back some of that life. They’re taking small portions of seagrass from a donor site and transplanting it into an area with no seagrass. The project calls for more than 36,000 planting units to spread across seven acres.

“The whole idea we’re hoping is in years because it takes years for seagrass to spread, is over time they’ll be able to come together and spread out,” FWC biological scientist and project leader Becca Hatchell said.

While this portion of the project takes about 10 weeks, the FWC has been working on improving water quality across the bay since 2014.

“Ultimately being able to provide fishery habitats seagrass habitat, all for shoreline erosion and all the benefits that seagrass provides,” Hatchell said.

Seagrass benefits those both below and above the water.

“Keeping the sand here, keeping it from moving around the bay so you don’t have to re-dredge your channel. Charter fisherman can come out here and hopefully one day fish off a beautiful seagrass flap. And you know, provide tourism for the economy,” Kramer said.

The seagrass restoration project is paid for by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

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