http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/oct/05/state-enforce-new-seagrass-rule/ Published: October 5, 2009 TALLAHASSEE - State law officers will soon begin enforcing new rules targeting those that intentionally damage seagrass. Under new legislation aimed at protecting seagrass in aquatic preserves, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission will first educate boaters, then begin citing them for the non-criminal infraction. Seagrass scarring results when boats damage or destroy the plants' roots, shoots or stems. The scarring is commonly referred to as prop scars. "I can't emphasize enough how important seagrass is to marine life," said Capt. Mark Warren of the FWC. "Approximately 80 percent of Florida's fisheries species spend at least part of their life cycles in seagrass. If you like to fish, or like seafood, you should like and preserve seagrass." Seagrass is submerged plants that inhabit shallow coastal waters in the ocean and in Tampa Bay. Seagrass meadows are an important habitat for all kinds of marine life, including shrimp, snook and scallops. It is also a food source for endangered manatees and an important component for a clean waterway. Warren recommends boaters be watchful for the deep green seagrass beds as they traverse the state's waterways. Boaters can minimize damage, he said. "The boater should stop his boat. If the water depth is sufficient to allow the engine to continue pumping cooling water without ingesting dirt or debris, he can allow the engine to cool for a minute or two," then pole or paddle to deeper water. Never power a boat out of seagrass if it has grounded, Warren said. Florida has 41 aquatic preserves, encompassing almost 2 million acres, including the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve and the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve, both in southern Hillsborough County. Those cited for intentionally destroying seagrass will receive a $50 citation for the first offense, a $250 fine for the second offense within 12 months, and $500 for the third offense Anyone receiving a fourth citation within 72 months will be fined $1,000, Warren said. Link provide under terms and conditions of TBO website. http://www2.tbo.com/static/aboutus/termsandconditions/ "Linking Unless you are subsequently advised otherwise by MEDIA GENERAL, you are hereby licensed to create hyperlinks to the content on the Web site, provided that the hyperlink accurately describes the content as it appears on the Web site. "