Eelgrass restoration and monitoring

An important aspect of fisheries management is protecting critical fish habitat. Therefore the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) monitors eelgrass and protects it throughout the Commonwealth.

Overview

Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is a marine plant that grows in the shallow coastal waters of Massachusetts. Eelgrass is an important nursery habitat for a variety of marine fisheries species. To track changes in eelgrass, DMF maps eelgrass throughout the state and participates in SeagrassNet, an international seagrass monitoring network. Also, the eelgrass team at DMF successfully restored tens of acres of eelgrass, the most eelgrass restoration in Massachusetts. DMF provides expertise and leadership in issues pertaining to eelgrass.

Focus areas include:

  • Long-term monitoring of eelgrass
  • Eelgrass mapping
  • Eelgrass restoration
  • Conservation moorings

Additional Resources

Long-term monitoring of eelgrass

SeagrassNet is a global seagrass monitoring program. DMF participates in SeagrassNet for its monitoring activities. The monitoring site in Salem Sound is the 45th SeagrassNet site worldwide. Data for the site is collected through quarterly sampling, which establishes a baseline. There are three transects at the Salem Sound station, at shallow, mid, and deep depths.

At these transects, data is collected on:

  • Plant characteristics
    • Percent cover
    • Canopy height
    • Biomass
    • Distance to bed edge
  • Environmental data
    • Light level
    • Temperature
    • Salinity
    • Sediment grain size

This data is important because it helps DMF to understand the health of eelgrass habitats and better respond to proposed coastal alteration projects.

 

Additional Resources

Eelgrass mapping

DMF uses depth finders and sidescan sonar to map eelgrass in survey areas throughout the state.  We look at how much the eelgrass changes from year to year to determine if losses or gains in eelgrass are long lasting.

Additional Resources

Eelgrass restoration

DMF restored eelgrass to Salem Sound to repair the scar from the HubLine pipeline installation.

DMF also restored eelgrass to Boston Harbor from 2004-2007. A second phase of restoration started in 2010 and expanded in 2012 to cover other areas in the Harbor Islands.

Additional Resources

Conservation mooring projects

Eelgrass has been declining in Massachusetts for many reasons. One big reason is mooring of boats. The traditional block and chain mooring causes scarring of the eelgrass beds as the chain drags along the substrate. Seagrass friendly moorings are available but are rarely used in Massachsuetts. DMF partnered with The Massachusetts Bays Program NEP. The goal is to test new seagrass friendly moorings and see if the eelgrass grows back.

Additional Resources

Contact

For more information regarding eelgrass, contact Tay Evans.

Phone: (978) 282-0308 x 168
Email: tay.evans@state.ma.us

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