SBEP seagrass scarring pilot helps determine effective boater outreach methods
Sarasota Bay is shallow, and much of it is covered in seagrass. Seagrasses are aquatic flowering plants that grow in meadows teeming with wildlife. These habitats are very important to our economy and fishing industry, and they provide protection from storms. When boaters run too shallow over seagrass beds, they can rip out grasses and cause propeller scars, or prop scars. Florida is the boating capital of the U.S. With over 40,000 boats registered in Sarasota and Manatee counties, it's important that new and experienced boaters are aware of these habitats and know how to avoid damaging them.
In the fall of 2020, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program initiated a seagrass scarring education campaign in Sarasota and Manatee counties. The purpose of this effort was to educate boaters about where seagrasses are in Sarasota Bay, how to avoid scarring them, and what to do in the case of a grounding. To determine the most efficient rollout strategy, a smaller pilot test was done to compare various outreach materials and delivery methods.
With the support of a grant from the Manatee County WCIND, signs and maps were?installed in the spring of 2021 in ten initial locations,?five in?Sarasota County and?five?in Manatee County.?These locations included marinas, boat ramps, boat rental companies, and bait/tackle shops. Several were also chosen due to proximity to seagrass?scarring hot spots, which were?identified?as part of an SBEP-New College project?in 2019.