Eelgrass is a plant that grows entirely under water, also known as seagrass. It has flowers and forms seeds just like a plant in your yard. Eelgrass shoots grow in large groups that are called “meadows”. In some ways it is more like an underwater forest.
Fish and shellfish hide from predators and get their food in eelgrass meadows. When eelgrass is lost there are fewer fish and shellfish just like removing trees from a forest reduces squirrels, birds and other small animals. When eelgrass is lost animals like the bay scallop that depend on it often disappear too.
Eelgrass meadows also help to clean the water by removing problem nutrients and allowing sand and particles in the water to settle to the bottom. This ability helps eelgrass to prevent our beaches from washing away (shoreline erosion) protecting waterfront properties.
Why Should Kids Care About Eelgrass?
If you like to go swimming you should want eelgrass because it helps to keep the water clear and clean. Eelgrass meadows also protect sandy beaches from washing away during storms.
If you like seafood you should care about eelgrass. Hard clams and bay scallops live in eelgrass meadows while oysters can be found growing near meadows. Edible finfish that live in or feed in eelgrass meadows include: Blackfish, Bluefish, Flounder, Fluke and Striped Bass. Lobsters, Blue Crabs and Rock Crabs can also be found in meadows.
What can you do to protect eelgrass?
The most important first step is awareness. Tell your friends what eelgrass is, where it can be found and why it is important.
You can directly protect existing eelgrass by not boating, mooring, anchoring or digging in meadows. Stay away from grass flats that can damage your boat and engine.
On land, try and reduce the amount of fertilizer and pesticide use on your lawn. These chemicals end up in bays and creeks as either runoff or through the groundwater that slowly makes its way to the bay. Be sure to clean up after your pet