Aquatic restoration authority Sea & Shoreline recently announced the completion of a seagrass rehabilitation project known as ‘Mercabo Cove’ in Gasparilla Island, Florida, in partnership with Gasparilla Island Conservation & Improvement Association (GICIA).
The aim of the project is to restore the area to create a marine sanctuary, suitable for all types of wildlife, as well as improving water quality sediment stabilization and nutrient sequestration. Since 2016 the team at GICIA has planted over 3,000 native plants, integrating rip rap and reef balls to increase fish and oyster habitats which will provide improved water quality, as the oysters will act as filter feeders.
First the team started by plating two acres of seagrass and enclosing the plants within 45 GrowSAV Herbivory Exclusion Devices that will protect the seagrass from herbivory until it can take root. The seagrass-rich Cove will improve water quality, provide a sanctuary for the endangered smalltooth sawfish, manatees, dolphins, turtles, and other sea life as well as enhancing bird habitats.
“Seagrass is one of the most productive ecosystems in the world,” said Sea & Shoreline Lead Biologist Ryan Brushwood, in a statement. “It provides a variety of solutions, such as improving water quality, and providing food and shelter for marine life. We are thrilled to be working with the GICIA to transform this industrial site into a conservation habitat.”
“The final step of this restoration project has been the installation of seagrass, which if successful, will increase our efforts to improve habitat and water quality within the Cove,” said Misty Nichols, GICIA Executive Director.
Once completed, the cove will provide sanctuary for manatees, dolphin, turtles, juvenile fish, birds, and the federally listed small tooth sawfish.