Whatcom Magazine

Eelgrass a vital source food and shelter in Salish Sea

Eelgrass grows close to shore at Larrabee State Park and in many other shallow marine waters in Whatcom County.
Eelgrass grows close to shore at Larrabee State Park and in many other shallow marine waters in Whatcom County. The Bellingham Herald

Eelgrass is appropriately named because it’s an underwater grass, not a seaweed. Meadows of eelgrass grow from muddy, sandy bottoms in shallow marine waters in Whatcom County and elsewhere in the Salish Sea.

Like other grasses, eelgrass flourishes in the spring and summer and decays in the fall and winter. The bacteria and decaying plant and animal matter that collect on and in eelgrass provide important food for assorted marine creatures.

That, in turn, makes eelgrass beds important feeding areas for birds and fish. It also provides shelter and breeding habitat for young fish, crabs, snails, and other marine life.

Eelgrass also eases erosion by cushioning waves, holding marine sediment in place, and protecting small animals and plants from high temperatures during low tide.

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