Signs Point to Seagrass Protection
In honor of Earth Day, new signs were unveiled on April 22, at a ceremony held at Fort De Soto boat ramp. There are 100 signs that are being placed at local boat ramps and marinas to remind boaters to help protect seagrasses and manatees.
Over the past 100 years, Tampa Bay has lost more than 80 percent of its seagrass beds due mostly to wastewater discharges and dredging for port and residential waterfront development. This loss has served a crucial link in the bay's food chain for fish and wildlife resources, causing the collapse of the bay's scallop and oyster fisheries and major declines in bait and food shrimp, spotted turtle trout and red drum.
In Tampa Bay, seagrasses are mostly found along the shoreline and fringe, barely exceeding a 2-meter depth. Seagrass coverage in Tampa Bay has slowly been increasing and it is estimated that there are now nearly 28,000 acres. This increase in seagrass coverage is mostly due to baywide water quality improvements and reduced dredging and filling along with educational programs.
Seagrasses also play an important role in the health of manatees, especially following a cold winter that resulted in a devastating number of manatee deaths in Florida. Boaters are being asked to be extra vigilant in watching for manatees in shallow waters near the coast, both inland and coastal, and obeying all posted manatee speed zone signs.
To report manatee sightings, call the Pinellas County Manatee Watch Line at (727) 464-4077. To report an injured or dead manatee, immediately contact Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's 24-hour hotline at (888) 404-3922.
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