by Leonard and Lorena Landon
A mixed sandy-mud bottom is ideal for anchoring, but it’s also ideal for the establishment of eelgrass, a seagrass that’s crucial to the ocean’s ecosystem. Notices posted at marine parks often request that boaters anchor out from shore in deeper water to avoid damaging eelgrass. But why? What’s so important about eelgrass? Eelgrass beds provide important habitat for fish species, filter pollutants, and store huge amounts of atmosphere-warming carbon.
When eelgrass beds are damaged or disappear, carbon is released, warming the ocean. The ability to purge pathogens from the ocean is another important attribute of eelgrass; pathogens can sicken other marine life and even threaten humans. Scientists believe that pathogens, along with the warming ocean, played a part in the devastating sea star wasting disease that started in 2013 and destroyed most of the star population on the West Coast. Eelgrass meadows, disrupted by boat anchors, can take years to recover, affecting marine life such as spawning herring and juvenile Chinook salmon that make eelgrass their home. Herring, salmon, and other fish species are important food sources for marine mammals like Orca.
What can boaters do to help protect these fields of eelgrass? Eelgrass beds are normally close to shore and are completely submerged, with roots anchored in sandy, muddy bottoms. An anchor can easily pull out the roots and destroy these bedding areas. Be mindful of where you anchor. As a general rule, anchor off shore in at least 30 feet of water to avoid anchoring in eelgrass. Better yet, use mooring buoys where available. Quickly clean up any oil spills and fuel spills.
For More information about Eelgrass Protection Zones in the San Juan Islands, visit the website of Friends of the San Juans.
MissionProtecting and restoring the San Juan Islands and the Salish Sea for people and nature.Contact UsFriends of the San Juans
PO Box 1344
Friday Harbor, WA 98250
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