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Challenge #4: Can you design a mooring that's both eelgrass and user-friendly?


Seagrass is an important feature of temperate and tropical coastal ecosystems.

In New England, healthy eelgrass beds are an important habitat for fish and other creatures (providing food and shelter), improve water quality (taking up nutrients), and protect against storm damage. Recent research indicates that eelgrass also stores carbon, and thus can serve to mitigate climate change.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen significant declines in eelgrass over the past 30 years. For many years, the Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program (MassBays) has been supporting efforts to map eelgrass, establish its role in carbon sequestration, and restore eelgrass beds that are disappearing. One way to protect existing eelgrass is to use “conservation moorings” to secure boats in coastal mooring fields. Traditional moorings – a large cement block dropped to the bottom, with a long chain to the boat – cause scouring of the bottom that rips eelgrass up by the roots, producing visible scars in existing beds.

Several conservation mooring systems are currently on the market, but their designs present problems that mean boat owners are hesitating to make the leap to the new system. Tricky installation, fouling that causes even elastic “chains” to drag the bottom, and concerns about holding capacity remain. We need help in addressing those problems, so we can continue to promote seagrass protection and restoration not only in Massachusetts, but in other coastal settings as well.

Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program
Data Sets and Tools
DMF 2017 MassPort Mooring Report
​The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has been monitoring conservation moorings at several municipal mooring areas where MassPort paid for installation as mitigation for impacts on eelgrass beds around Logan airport). This report describes their observations from 2013 to 2016.
DMF Recommendations for Mooring Maintenance
Recommendations for harbormasters (2016) from the MA Division of Marine Fisheries regarding conservation mooring maintenance to mitigate observed problems.
UMass Boston 2013 Final Mooring Report
A report on the utility and impact of conservation moorings prepared by the Urban Harbors Institute at UMass Boston for MassBays, with funding from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust and The Nature Conservancy.
Avoiding and Minimizing Impacts to Eelgrass through the Use of Low-Impact Floats and Moorings
A fact sheet prepared by MassBays for municipal Conservation Commissioners about the importance of using conservation moorings to protect eelgrass beds.​
Maine Coastal Program's Preliminary Guide to Moorings
Guidance produced by the Maine Coastal Program to introduce conservation moorings to Maine recreational boaters.
Conservation Moorings: Field Observations
​A powerpoint presentation by the Division of Marine Fisheries summarizing the findings of the 2017 report to MassPort, presented to the New England Estuarine Research Society annual meeting.
"What is a Conservation Mooring?" Presentation
A powerpoint presentation by the Urban Harbors institute presented at Restore America's Estuaries' national conference.