Eelgrass, Paddle Boards, and A Unique Marine Meadows Workshop

Eelgrass (Zostera marina)plays a critical role in providing habitat and protection for various marine species, prevents erosion caused by storm events, and assists in controlling water turbidity (cloudiness).  Over the past 75 years, local populations of eelgrass have declined drastically as the result of several factors. To learn more about these factors, visit here (link to  Due to the decline of eelgrass in local waters, there are not enough naturally occurring propagules, seeds or adult shoots, to facilitate natural recolonization.  This lack of seeds or shoots, referred to as “propagule limitation,” is what CCE’s eelgrass restoration program is trying to overcome.


Although CCE staff  have been involved with eelgrass restoration efforts for the last 30 years, in 2011, we launched a program aimed at engaging the public with this effort.  The Marine Meadows Program invites volunteers to learn about the importance of eelgrass and its biology, while also enabling people to participate in a unique hands-on restoration project. At Marine Meadows “workshops,” participants learn how to weave eelgrass shoots (collected beforehand by CCE SCUBA divers) into biodegradable burlap planting discs or “tortillas.”  The program is a great outreach tool, because people of all ages can help with the land-based portion of the process, from school aged children to adults!


On May 7, 2016, the third annual “Race for the Bays ”, took place in Sag Harbor. The event was hosted by Main Beach Surf + Sport, who generously donated proceeds from the event to support our work.


Race starting line up at Havens Beach!


Paddlers braving the harsh cold and wind.


After the completion of the race, we held a unique Marine Meadows workshop. At this particular workshop, the volunteers making “tortillas” were paddlers who had just come ashore after finishing the race!


“Tortillas” being assembled by paddler volunteers after the race


Paddlers gained knowledge about eelgrass and the Marine Meadows Program while assembling tortillas.


Once the eelgrass “tortillas” are assembled, CCE staff transport them to a specific restoration site where they are planted by divers.  The newly planted eelgrass turns into a “marine meadow,” which will serve as habitat for fish, prevent erosion, and limit the presence of sediments.


CCE diver “splashing”.


CCE diver ready for planting!


Stacks of assembled discs being handed to divers for planting.


Down they go!


We would like to thank all of our volunteers involved with this Marine Meadows workshop.  This was all made possible thanks to the dedication to the environment demonstrated by the paddling community.  We’d specifically like to recognize Lars Svanberg and his team from Main Beach Surf + Sport, East Hampton Trustee Rick Drew, the Sag Harbor Village Board and Harbor Committee, and the Thomas Kempner Foundation for their support and generosity.  Through these types of events, with the support of the local community, we are able to continue our meaningful work in restoring eelgrass meadows. If you would like to get involved with the Marine Meadows Program or have any questions, visit here (link to  If you would like to help us expand our efforts, check out our Good Circle Campaign (provide link to )  to learn how you can make a difference to the health our bays. 



Winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) in a Fishers Island eelgrass meadow

Winter flounder in an eelgrass meadow in Long Island Sound. Photo Credit: Chris Pickerell-CCE

Happy new year! Here at Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program, we are excited to get our new year rolling with some fresh ideas to stay connected, which includes launching this new blog. We wanted a way to connect with people on a day-to-day basis that went beyond simple social media announcements to include more details on our ongoing field activities and programs, like a journal, or field notes. So here it is!