NewsCitrus, Hernando County


Boaters warned to stay off protected seagrass beds along Florida's coast

Posted at 4:07 PM, Jul 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-03 18:00:53-04

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — Seagrass might not seem like a big deal to most people but biologists say that it drives Florida’s economy. 

Grass is a crucial part of life on land, and the same holds true underwater. 

"It's a critical base food chain that provides food for all the animals here along the coast," said Keith Kolasa, director of Hernando County Waterways. 

That’s why seagrass is protected. It’s what manatees and turtles live on, and what fish live in.
But boats can destroy it. Many grass bed areas have “scarring” where boats have dropped their anchors or grounded and ripped away the grass.

"It won’t grow back at all or it’ll take 10 to 12 years for the grass beds to fill back in," said Kolasa.

The Nature Coast has the second largest seagrass beds in the nation and they want to keep it that way. That’s why Hernando County is placing buoys around areas of heavy boat traffic, to keep boaters off the grass, because without it Florida would not be thriving. 

"Our waters would be turbid, it would look more like the waters around Louisiana. So it's critical to protect where we can especially in areas we know boaters are impacting it," said Kolasa. 

Kolasa says boaters who go into protected seagrass areas could face fines.