The 2014 Morro Bay Eelgrass Recovery Program is underway. And volunteers will be coming all week to the Morro Bay State Park Marina (staging area to the west of Bayside Café, park well to the east of Bayside café.)
Eelgrass is a foundation species in the Bay and due to a series of problems (disease, sedimentation, temperature rise) the grass’s previous abundance is now dangerously diminished. So efforts are underway to re-plant the Bay.
The process is sort of like hair restoration: The healthy beds are carefully combed and a certain amount of eelgrass is carefully uprooted and gathered into sacks, ready for the volunteers to bundle.
Five or six strands are carefully noosed together with a cunning little tie rod that helps anchor the bundles into the silt.
The grass bundles are counted out and slid onto rods which the volunteer scuba divers will take out to the new beds to be planted. (A shout out here to Depth Perceptions in San Luis Obispo for donating (tank) air to all the volunteer divers.) Since the Bay is pretty murky, much of the work underwater has to be done by touch.
The restoration project has been underway for several years. It’s slow work since the success rate for the re-implantaion is about 50%, but already sections planted a few years ago are starting to grow and spread.
So, how important is the lowly, lovely eelgrass? Very. Eelgrass loss equals a terrible reduction in the overall abundance and productivity of the coastal environment. Eel grass shelters, supports and feeds a huge variety of critters, improves water clarity, produces oxygen, improves the bottom of the Bay by trapping and stabilizing sediment. In short, it’s absolutely vital for the health of the Bay, which is a complex haven, nursery and cafeteria for countless species.
So, if you have an hour or two to spare this week, drop by the staging area and get your hands wet. The crews are usually up and running by 9 a.m. and go all day, so volunteers can come and go when they have a little time to donate. Or call the MBNEP office to get latest work schedule updates.
The success of this project depends on the volunteer bundlers and divers. So, lend a hand and go play with some eelgrass. The Bay will thank you.
For further information, contact the Morro Bay National Estuary Program at mbnep.org, call (805) 772-3834 or stop by their offices (upstairs) at 601 Embarcadero, Suite 11 (Marina Square) in Morro Bay.