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NOAA Helps Eelgrass and Boaters Break Free of the Chains

NOAA partnered with the Town of Tisbury, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, the Environmental Protection Agency, and The Nature Conservancy to protect important eelgrass habitat within the Town of Tisbury, MA by replacing traditional boat moorings with alternative moorings.

Eelgrass is an extremely valuable habitat for a variety of fish and shellfish species, including winter flounder, summer flounder, and bay scallop. Throughout the Northeast, eelgrass meadows have been declining over the past 20 years. The decline is primarily from deteriorating water quality, but is also as a result of boating-related impacts.

When boaters use traditional, chain moorings in and around eelgrass beds, the chains drag and can severely damage habitat by scouring the vegetation. The disturbance to the seafloor also decreases water clarity, which prevents light from reaching eelgrass to help it grow.

What are conservation moorings?

Conservation mooring systems are designed to avoid contact with the seafloor, often through the use of flexible, floatable lines. Depending on the type of seafloor, long screw-like anchors may be used in place of a traditional concrete mooring blocks in order to reduce the footprint within eelgrass or shellfish habitat.

Once conservation moorings have been deployed, researchers from NOAA, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and the Environmental Protection Agency will conduct long-term monitoring to determine the level of eelgrass recovery.

 



Aerial photo showing scars in the eelgrass meadow at Outer Manchester Harbor mooring field
Aerial photo showing scars in the eelgrass meadow at Outer Manchester Harbor mooring field.
A traditional chain moorings drag on the seafloor tearing out eelgrass and other vegetation.
A traditional chain moorings drag on the seafloor tearing out eelgrass and other vegetation.
New conservation moorings screw into the seafloor and use flexible, floatable lines
New conservation moorings screw into the seafloor and use flexible, floatable lines.