Eco-Mariner Boater Education Course Premieres at Earth Day Event to Help Boaters Protect Florida Bay

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   April 22, 2009
Contact:   Rob Clift, Senior Marine Outreach Coordinator, National Parks Conservation Association, Phone: 305.240.4948


Eco-Mariner Boater Education Course Premieres at Earth Day Event to Help Boaters Protect Florida Bay

Parks group says uneducated boaters can cause damage to vital marine wildlife and underwater habitat

Islamorada, Fla.—The nation’s leading voice for our national parks, the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), along with numerous partners in the angling, paddling, boating, business, government, and conservation fields, today announce the launch of Eco-Mariner, a free online education course designed to help boaters and anglers enjoy and preserve Florida Bay in Everglades National Park.

“For those unfamiliar with Florida Bay, it’s like navigating through a maze with walls that you can’t see. Boaters that run aground risk not only damage to their boats, but also damage to the Bay floor, which can take a decade or more to recover,” said Rob Clift, senior marine outreach coordinator for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Educating boaters on the importance of protecting Florida Bay is critical to ensuring the long-term preservation of the Bay for our children and grandchildren.”

Eco-Mariner was designed to provide boaters with the necessary knowledge to protect Florida Bay’s important wildlife and underwater habitat. The clear waters and renowned fishing flats of Florida Bay draw an increasing number of boaters every year. However, navigating the Bay is complicated and requires great care. Inexperienced or careless boaters can easily damage seagrasses and mud flats with their propellers, churning up sediment, suffocating plants, and harming fish habitat. Manatees, sea turtles, high prized game fish, and other wildlife depend on seagrasses in Florida Bay for their survival.

“I have been fishing in Florida Bay for 39 years and I think education is critical for long term protection of the Bay,” said Charlie Causey, long time Keys resident and recreational angler. “Eco-Mariner will help ensure that Florida Bay continues to be the economic engine of the Florida Keys.” 

The free, interactive online Eco-Mariner course, also available in Spanish, teaches necessary boating skills like polling a flats boat and resource protection skills such as proper catch and release methods. In addition, users will learn about proper navigation, critical habitat, and ways to protect the Bay and its resources.  After completing the 90-minute course, participants will take a short test for Eco-Mariner certification. The program will also feature instructor-led courses later this year. Eco-Mariner is now available online at www.ecomariner.org.

The debut of Eco-Mariner will take place on Earth Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Green Turtle Hammock in Islamorada, Florida. The public is invited to take the new Eco-Mariner course to become official “Eco-Mariners.” The Earth Day event will also feature family-friendly activities such as kayaking, boat tours, hammock walks, and educational lectures. At a private reception on Wednesday evening, Florida Governor Charlie Crist will express his support for Eco-Mariner by video address.

To view a recent assessment by NPCA about the health and threats to Florida Bay, please click here.

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