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Campaign to save Bermuda seagrass beds gets under way

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Successful seagrass restoration near Trunk Island (Photograph supplied)

Efforts are under way to protect Bermuda’s native seagrass beds – and the species that rely on them to survive.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, said the ministry launched a restoration project last summer, installing large mesh cages over struggling seagrass areas around the island.

Mr Roban said: “Anyone swimming or boating around our Island last summer is likely to have noticed that many of our seagrass meadows have disappeared, for example at Admiralty Park and Somerset Long Bay.

“In a few places where the seagrass is short, it no longer provides refuge for juvenile fish, newly settled spiny lobsters and other small animals.

“This loss of seagrass will very likely upset the dynamics of our shallow water environment as well as negatively impact recreational and commercial fisheries.”

The mesh cages installed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are intended to limit access to the seagrass to juvenile fish, young lobsters and other marine organisms such as seahorses and juvenile queen conch.

A spokeswoman for the ministry said multiple factors have contributed to the loss of seagrass, including shoreline development, dredging and the creation of docks, along with boats anchoring, grounding and mooring.

The spokeswoman added: “At Bermuda’s northern latitude the cooler water temperatures and shorter day lengths in winter limit seagrass growth rates and their ability to recover from any negative impact.

“More recently, green turtle grazing has put unprecedented pressure on these habitats leading to their local collapse.

“The plants struggle to recover from the intensive grazing by the increasing number of juvenile green turtles arriving on the Bermuda Platform.”

Turtles will be able to eat the top growth of seagrass near the edges of the cages and the remaining grass inside will be able to provide shelter for other species.

Mr Roban said that the department has received public donations to support the project and thanked those who contributed.

He added: “The department is extremely grateful to members of the public who are committed to creating areas of restored seagrass in Bermuda which in turn benefits a host of marine organisms and ecosystems.”

“With these recent donations, DENR can expand the seagrass restoration project beyond the six areas currently caged. The additional material will enable the restoration of larger areas of seagrass at more locations, both inshore and offshore.

"The most visible cages are the ones at Bailey’s Bay and Trunk Island – the public can see a cage from the shore in Flatts Inlet located by the seawall adjacent to the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo.”

Seagrass restoration cage deployed at Chub Heads in August 2020 (Photograph supplied)
Evidence of turtle grazing along the inside edge of a seagrass restoration cage (Photograph supplied)

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Published January 15, 2021 at 1:15 pm (Updated January 17, 2021 at 8:09 pm)

Campaign to save Bermuda seagrass beds gets under way

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