The Long Island Sound Study wrote a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (LISS CCMP) with a vision of a Long Island Sound packed with wildlife, bustling fisheries, and recreational boating access. This vision begins with community members who understand their effect on Long Island Sound and are cognizant of those actions that can harm the marine ecosystem. An essential aspect of this plan is the priority to restore and protect eelgrass. The LISS CCMP set a goal to restore 2000 acres of eelgrass by 2035; unfortunately, recent estimates of eelgrass extent show that LIS has lost more acres than it has gained. Fishers Island, the most abundant source of eelgrass in New York, lost 56 acres of eelgrass between 2012 and 2017. Because this goal is a high priority, the EPA has written a strategy document to address eelgrass in LIS. In the document, the EPA acknowledges the importance of the community involvement and engagement initiatives of the FISM Coalition.
The eelgrass around Fishers Island provides many ecosystem services that residents and visitors enjoy. It provides a complex habitat that can support a great deal of biodiversity. This habitat supports fisheries by giving shelter to juvenile fish food for grazers, and even provides lining for the nests of ospreys.This complex habitat gives snorkelers and divers exciting things to observe. Further adding to recreational enjoyment, eelgrass is an efficient filtration system that offers beachgoers and boaters crystal-clear waters. These meadows pull pollutants, like nitrogen, out of the water column, decreasing algal blooms and low oxygen zones. The eelgrass beds are also a powerful tool to prevent erosion. They reduce the power of currents and waves, preventing sediments’ resuspension and promoting sedimentation within the meadow. Finally, eelgrass sequesters large amounts of carbon in its deposits. Despite only accounting for 0.1% of the coastal ocean, seagrass accounts for 10-18% of carbon sequestration in the ocean. To learn more about these ecosystem services, visit our website: fiseagrass.org.
This year, the FISM Coalition focuses on two main areas causing eelgrass damage. We chose these starting initiatives because these are areas where our community members can have a significant impact. Our first goal is to promote the reduction of fertilizer use on Fishers Island by educating residents about fertilizer timing, amount, alternatives, and the use of native plants. Although these goals will benefit Fishers Island eelgrass, it will also have broader ecosystem benefits of less water pollution (fresh and marine), restoring natural terrestrial biodiversity, and attracting pollinators and wildlife. Learn more about our landscaping initiatives on our Seagrass Safe Landscaping page of our website.