A scup cruises above an eelgrass meadow in Long Island Sound. Photo/Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program

A scup cruises above an eelgrass meadow in Long Island Sound. Photo/Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program

A recently released report by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) reports that eelgrass, an underwater plant that forms meadows that are ecologically important for fish and shellfish, increased by 4.5% in Long Island Sound between 2009 and 2012.

The USFWS National Wetlands Inventory Program assessed 2012 aerial photography for eelgrass at 17 coves, embayments, harbors, and other locations in Connecticut and New York. In total, healthy beds of eelgrass covered an area of 2,061 acres. This compares to 1,980 acres of eelgrass from a 2009 survey. Eelgrass beds increased in 13 of 16 locations, while three showed a decrease. A site in the Connecticut River that was previously found to have a low-density 2.1 acre eelgrass bed was not included in the 2012 survey results because it could not be verified with the imagery.

The surveys, conducted every 3 or 4 years, have been funded by the EPA, through the Long Island Sound Study. Compared to the first survey in 2002, the area of eelgrass has grown by 29%.

“An increase in eelgrass is really good news for resource managers trying to protect fish and other wildlife that live along the coast, and it’s a good sign that water quality is improving,” said Mark Tedesco, the director of the EPA Long Island Sound Office.

Read more about the increase in Long Island Sound eelgrass.

 

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