Mini-312 Seagrass Restoration Program
Purpose: To prepare rapid, cost-effective, litigation-quality
claims for vessel groundings and to implement restoration of seagrass injuries.
Location: Florida Keys
National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS).
Overview: The seagrass beds of the Florida Keys are important
feeding and nursery grounds for hundreds of marine species, host thousands of
recreational and commercial fishermen annually, and provide protection for the
Keys during storms. Unfortunately, the seagrass communities have been severely
degraded over the past few decades. Recreational and commercial vessels are
significant contributors to this decline. When a vessel runs aground, the
resulting injury often destroys the impacted habitat, causing long-term harm to
the environment. With more than 600 vessel groundings reported each year in
FKNMS, the impact on seagrass can be extensive.
NOAA and the state of Florida have teamed up to tackle this problem. They
created the Mini-312 Program to address the injuries to seagrass habitats
caused by smaller vessel groundings in FKNMS. The goal of the Mini-312 Program
is to reverse the decline in seagrass community health by restoring injured
resources and educating boat owners about the negative consequences of vessel
groundings. The program uses an interdisciplinary team of biologists,
economists, lawyers, and resource managers to assess and recover natural
resource damages from boat operators who cause these injuries. The funds
collected are then used to restore the seagrass communities at the impact
The Mini-312 Program gets its name from section 312 of the
National Marine Sanctuaries Act
Section 312 authorizes trustees to seek damages from those responsible for
injuring sanctuary natural resources. In addition, section 307 authorizes
trustees to assess civil penalties for violations of sanctuary regulations.
Some natural resource injuries are pursued under section 307.