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People ask all the time what can they do to help. It’s fantastic that so many love Kings Bay and are very supportive of Save Crystal River’s efforts. It seems like all of us want to do our part.
So what can we do?
The single best thing you can do is to be a responsible boater! It sounds simple, and it is. But the number one threat to our restoration efforts is ANCHORS. Yes you read correctly – if you have a boat anchor you are probably hurting not helping.
Why are anchors a problem?
Let’s do some quick math. Let’s say you’ve just reached your favorite fishing spot for the day. Its beautiful and sunny and you just know you’re coming home with dinner. You park your boat over a nice meadow of eelgrass where you can see all the small fish just swimming around. You toss your anchor over and get to work.
That’s it. That’s how simple it is to damage the bottom. When you pull that anchor up it will be covered in plants. You’ve probably never given it much thought, just simply dunked it off a few times then went on your way. But think about how many boats you saw out on the water that morning. Now think about how many boats are on the water every day of the year. That’s a lot of anchors.
We are loving our favorite spots to death. Want to change your favorite places into spots where there is nothing left alive in the water? Drag your anchor. Cut large scars in the bottom. Run aground. Run your prop close the the bottom. Break up the habitat.
We can stop destroying our favorites spots by using a bit more care.
How many boats hurt?
The answer may surprise you!
Let’s do some quick math. Let’s say one anchor pulls up about one square foot of grass. Now if that boat moved 5 times it would pull up 5 square feet of grass in total. Now let’s say that boat goes out every day for 30 days and moves 5 times a day. That equals 150 square feet of eelgrass destroyed. If 290 boats did that (move 5 times a day multiplied by 30 days) it would destroy an acre of eelgrass every month! A scientific study of Charlotte harbors shows the damage here.
Its not hard to imagine 290 boats on Kings Bay on any given day. And its not hard to imaging one boat destroying more than a foot of grass when they set an anchor or pull it out.
That’s all it takes – 290 boats, moving their anchors 5 times a day for 30 days to destroy and entire ACRE of eelgrass
It’s true that the destruction boats leave behind is very real. Not only does it destroy all the hard work we have done to plant this lush salad bar that so many creatures depend on, it also fragments the habitat. You may have seen the “Scars Hurt” signs around town. Scars left behind when boats drag their anchors, run around, or their prop hits the bottom make long cuts across these meadows. These bare areas become barriers to many fish and small creatures that makeup a healthy ecosystem. Those animals often will not cross these scars. This creates little islands of habitat and it no long functions in a healthy way.
Protect Your Precious Bottom!
The single biggest thing you can do is to protect the bottom! Use a spud or push pole type anchor or a hydraulic type shallow water anchor. Push poles can be made cheaply at hope just search for some DIY videos! The freshly cleaned sandy bottoms are perfect for these types of anchors. In fact, all of your work barges with our heavy equipment use large hydraulic pole anchors! They work. Here is a link to one “shallow water anchor pin”. Save Crystal River is not saying to buy or not to buy from this vendor, but are showing you a real example. There are many to choose from.
Another thing you can do is to not anchor over eelgrass beds. Take a few extra minutes and find a sandy spot to place your anchor in. When it’s time to leave make sure you carefully and completely extract the anchor from the bottom BEFORE you motor off. It sounds simple but we see people dragging anchors accidentally every day. Take an extra minute and make sure you are all set before you start your engine. Taking five minutes to be seagrass safe makes a huge difference! If moorings are available make use of those rather than anchoring separately.
Anchors aren’t the only enemy of eelgrass…
Anchors and boats aren’t the only threat to our underwater plants. There are many other things you can do to protect this important habitat.
- Swim rather than walk through eelgrass meadow or tread carefully. Dozens of people tramping through the same spot every day will kill eelgrass – much like what happens at parks where there is a shortcut to be had across the lawn
- Watch your depth. Much of Kings Bay is shallow and it is easy to run a ground or run your prop through the eelgrass. Boat carefully.
- Don’t dump your scallop shells in freshwater. Waiting until you get back to the boat ramp to clean and dump your shells pollutes our waterways and smothers the plants at the bottom. One 10-gallon bucket of shells can blanket 12 square feet of the bottom. Either dispose of them out in the Gulf where they are part of the natural ecosystem or dispose of them in the trash. But they don’t belong in the freshwater rivers and canals.
- Don’t dump trash overboard either. Keeping the bottom clear is the best way to allow the plants to thrive. This underwater lawn is no different than your on land lawn.
- And speaking of lawns…. avoid using fertilizers. If you put it on land it WILL end up in the water. Fertilizer runoff causes algae to proliferate which can smother the eelgrass too.