Caloosahatchee seagrass planting
Caloosahatchee seagrass planting (photo courtesy Calusa Waterkeeper)

Seeding Success

Volunteers from The Calusa Waterkeeper, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program and Sea and Shoreline gathered Monday, June 18 to begin a seagrass replenishment program. They planted widgeon and tape grass in the upper estuary of the Caloosahatchee River, utilizing prepared cages. These devices will help the plants get started and protect them until they reach maturity.

John Cassini of Calusa Waterkeeper explained that permitting for the project was a joint effort from Florida Department of Environmental Protection, National Marine  and the Army Corps of Engineers. Florida House Representative Heather Fitzenhagen was on hand to help as well.

Aquatic Plants are Vital to a Healthy Fishery

Seagrasses are one of the vital links in the aquatic food chain. They provide food and essential habitat for a huge variety of marine species.

Seagrass health is largely dependent on salinity and light levels. According to NOAA, “The depth at which seagrass are found is limited by water clarity, which determines the amount of light reaching the plant.”

Fresh water releases and algae blooms can quickly destroy large swaths of seagrass beds. The loss of seagrass in places such as nearby Estero Bay and Matlacha Pass are widely believed to have hurt fishing and the overall health of the estuaries.

It can take many years for these plant colonies to recover from water clarity impacts such as releases from Lake Okeechobee. By planting new seagrasses, volunteers hope to jump-start the recovery process.

Monday’s event was the first in a monthly effort and volunteers are welcome. You can reach out to Jennifer Hecker of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program at jhecker@chnep.org or (239) 941-1900 for more information.

This what we call a “grass-roots” effort!

(video by Pelican Media)