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ICW Boating Tips: Under Way

Operating on the intracoastal waterway.

WHILE UNDERWAY: Boat traffic (including personal watercraft) through shallow-water areas and in nearshore areas, can stir up bottom sediment, uproot submerged aquatic vegetation, erode shorelines and harm marine life. Resuspended sediment and erosion along shorelines increases turbidity in the water column. Turbid waters cannot support submerged aquatic vegetation to the same depths as clear waters because sunlight cannot penetrate as deeply. With photosynthesis limited to the upper foot or so of water, less dissolved oxygen is produced.

Fish that locate prey primarily by sight have a harder time finding prey in turbid waters. Plant leaves can become coated with fine sediment, and bottom-dwelling organisms may be continually covered by sediment that has resettled. Resuspended sediment can also contain harmful chemicals that once in the water column, are more likely to be ingested by fish and shellfish, work their way up the food chain, and possibly make it to someone’s dinner table.

Uprooted, submerged aquatic vegetation can no longer provide habitat for fish and shellfish or food for waterfowl. Instead of recycling nutrients, the vegetation adds more nutrients as it decomposes. It also cannot reduce wave energy at shorelines, which may increase the rate of erosion.

As you are boating:

  • Always be aware of your wake.

  • Obey posted no-wake zones.

  • Distribute your passengers equally. A heavy stern creates a larger wake.

  • Be aware of low tide when seagrass beds, marshes and bottom

  • organisms are more exposed and susceptible to damage.

  • Operate as far from shore as possible to avoid disturbing wildlife.

  • Operate in main channels to avoid disturbing bottom habitats.

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