It’s impossible to overstate how much the fish and invertebrate communities found in seagrass beds depend on the food and shelter that only a healthy environment can provide. Unfortunately, seagrass beds are under threat from a number of sources. Sedimentation from coastal development can smother seagrass. Too many nutrients from sewage, fertilizer runoff, and other sources, can cause algae blooms that decrease the clarity of the water, causing the seagrass to die due to lack of light. Too many nutrients can also cause so many epiphytes (plants that grow on the surface of the seagrass blades) to grow on the grass blades that the blades are smothered and die. Water management practices that remove all freshwater from an estuary, or alternately hold all freshwater and release all freshwater create conditions that are unsuitable for growth of seagrass. These threats to seagrass are associated with various non-fishing human activities but they impact the seagrass that gamefish depend on, and should be of concern to anglers.
Perhaps one of the greatest threats to seagrass that can be directly addressed by anglers is destruction of seagrass due to boat propellers, called prop-scarring. Prop-scarring is caused by running the boat in water that is too shallow, so that the propeller digs a trough through the seagrass. It may take more than 10 years for seagrass to recover from a deep prop-scar. Prop-scarring has become a major problem to the overall health of seagrass in the subtropics, especially in south Florida. This is a problem that can be solved by boating anglers.
Regardless of the cause, seagrass beds that are damaged lose some of their ecological integrity, and are unable to support the full and diverse communities that help to support gamefish. Therefore, maintaining the health of these ecosystems is paramount to ensure a productive recreational fishery, so fish these areas responsibly.
Healthy seagrass beds are essential for supporting coastal fisheries. Seagrasses form the base of the food chain, stabilize sediments, maintain high water quality, and provide habitat for gamefish and their prey. Seagrasses are important nurseries for many species of gamefish and for the organisms that gamefish eat. In Florida, for example, more than 70% of the state's fishery species rely on seagrass habitat at some point in their lives.
Many saltwater recreational fisheries are in crisis or heading quickly in that direction. Even fisheries that look in good shape might have trouble brewing behind the scenes. It used to be that we could go fishing, have fun, go home, and not think about it until the next trip. That is no longer true. Recreational anglers must become involved in conservation to ensure a good outlook for the future of our fisheries. Recreational anglers are the primary users of coastal habitats, and also major beneficiaries. Consider your involvement an investment in the future of the fisheries.
Tribal Bonefish Gear: show your conservation credentials