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Solutions to Protect Eelgrass: Cooperative Guidance on Docks and Recreational Boating

Funding for this project was provided by MassBays to Salem Sound Coastwatch (2020)

About the project

Over the past decades, eelgrass losses have been documented in Salem Sound, particularly in harbor areas which are subject to pollution and human uses that result in water quality deterioration. Decreased light availability due to increased turbidity, as well as increase in temperatures have contributed to eelgrass loss in such areas as Salem Harbor.

Increased recreational boating and associated infrastructure may also be contributing to negative impacts on eelgrass. This project will examine the degree of impact on eelgrass from shading by docks and piers. As management of environmental impacts from these structures remains a challenge for regulators, managers and planners, Salem Sound Coastwatch (SSCW) is leading the effort to gather scientific data that will provide sound basis for development of guidance for permitting of docks and piers in harbors and embayments in Salem Sound and across the state.

The project will: 1) document eelgrass presence/absence, percent cover, and assessment of eelgrass health in existing eelgrass off Winter Island (Salem) and along Marblehead’s west shore, 2) measure the direct physical effects of docks, floats, and boats on individual beds, including direct displacement of eelgrass and reduction of available light, and 3) provide guidance to managers and stewards so they are in a better position to effectively manage and protect the eelgrass resource

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