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Conserving Florida's Seagrass Resources: Developing a Coordinated Statewide Management Program (2003)

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This article is excerpted from the introduction of Florida Seagrass Management Plan: "Effective local seagrass management programs are currently underway in several areas of Florida, primarily in subtropical portions of the peninsula (e.g., Indian River Lagoon, Florida Bay, Sarasota Bay, and Tampa Bay). In addition, a number of federal, state, and local government agencies conduct regularly scheduled mapping and monitoring of seagrass habitats within their jurisdictions. However, the state of Florida does not yet have a coordinated statewide program for managing its seagrass resources. This report recommends a series of steps that could be taken to initiate a coordinated, cooperative, multi-agency program. The plan outlined herein provides a framework for quantitative management goals for the five distinct regions of the state that currently possess extensive seagrass resources. It also provides recommendations regarding the state's potential role in developing the following:

  • Consensus-based seagrass management strategies at the regional and statewide level
  • A methodologically consistent, statewide seagrass mapping and monitoring program
  • A schedule for reporting regional and statewide status and trends information
  • A schedule for assessing the state's management strategies and the progress made toward achieving the adopted management goals
  • A management-oriented, statewide seagrass research program
  • A statewide, public outreach program focused on seagrass management and conservation

The process of developing a statewide seagrass management program should not be allowed to impede or delay progress in the local areas where effective community-based programs are already in place. The statewide program should review and, if appropriate, adopt existing seagrass management goals and strategies developed by local stakeholder groups. A primary purpose of the statewide program should be to provide increased support for-and greater statewide consistency in the implementation of-the various components of seagrass management. To avoid unnecessary duplication of effort, the program should build on accomplishments at the local level and work cooperatively with local management programs. It is assumed that the statewide management program will be guided by a statewide management plan. The plan should be a "living document" that is revisited every 4 to 6 years, as statewide summaries of seagrass status and trends are updated and reported to the public. Of necessity, this initial planning document focuses on basic procedural issues, providing a brief overview of Florida's existing seagrass resources and a list of recommendations for the participating organizations to consider as they work to initiate a consistent, coordinated statewide management effort."