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CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us


~Governor Scott names March 2013 Seagrass Awareness Month~

TALLAHASSEE – Governor Rick Scott proclaimed March 2013 Seagrass Awareness Month, the 12th annual statewide recognition from the Executive Office of the Governor. Awareness of seagrass and its integral role in the marine ecosystem, 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 percent of Florida’s recreational and commercial fisheries depend on seagrasses for part of their lifespan. 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.

“Seagrass habitat provides a variety of functions that contribute to a healthy and viable marine ecosystem,” said Kevin Claridge, DEP's Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas Director. “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.”

Florida is home to seven species of seagrass. The multi-million 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. Seagrasses are important to the natural ecosystem because they provide food for manatees and other wildlife, help maintain water clarity and provide shelter for fishes, crustaceans and shellfish.

Propeller scarring from boats poses a serious threat to seagrass habitats. While boating, you 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 during 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/.