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The Sarasota Environmental Aquatics Team SEA Team Receives Gulf Guardian Award

Release Date: 09/08/2009
Contact Information: Davina Marraccini, (404) 562-8293,

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced that the Sarasota Environmental Aquatics Team (SEA) of Sarasota County, Florida will receive a second place Gulf Guardian Award for 2009 in the Government Category. The 2009 Gulf Guardians hold a special significance this year as they will be awarded on the 10th Anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico Program’s Gulf Guardian Awards Program! (2000-2009). The ceremony will be held on the evening of October 29, 2009, beginning at approximately 6 p.m in the Magnolia Ballroom at the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi. The Awards ceremony is being held in conjunction with the Oceans `09 International Conference.

Broad-scale seagrass monitoring has been ongoing within Sarasota County since the 1988 aerial photography interpretation was completed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD). During the 2006 seagrass photography, Sarasota County staff collected data on the ground. Post mapping accuracy, map versus ground truth data suggested that more concurrent field data could produce a more accurate map. Around the time of learning of the map accuracy results, the County was approached by the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers. This organization was searching for an environmental project that they could tie to fishing. The idea of volunteering to provide data regarding seagrass habitats was presented and accepted. Members of the Flyfishers were recruited and a training session was held. They were tasked with visiting as many points within the bays and to record their observations. This initial field season provided 331 survey points. For the first time, environmental managers not only knew the extent of seagrass beds from the SWFWMD maps but now knew through a broad picture of the spatial extent of the species present, something not currently available through aerial techniques. The Winter 2007-2008 sampling brought about another cycle of SWFWMD aerial mapping. Through 4 seasons, 2,171 survey points have been surveyed. From this, spatial variation of seagrass species has been established. This data will play an important role as agencies set water clarity goals to protect the species locally

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in seven categories individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, partnership and bi-national efforts.

A. Stanley Meiburg, Acting Regional Administrator of U.S. EPA Region 4 said, "The Gulf of Mexico is a priceless treasure. As a unique habitat, a place which gives pleasure to countless Americans, and a source of some of our most valuable resources, it has no equal. These Gulf Guardians who labor to protect and enhance this magnificent sea deserve our highest praise and thanks."

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

Bryon Griffith, Director of the Gulf of Mexico Program said, “The Gulf Guardian Awards Program is in its 10th year of honoring citizens, governments and businesses throughout the 5 State Gulf Region for outstanding environmental achievements. Our 2009 award winners are truly an inspiration and exemplify the high quality of projects being done that generate as much excitement and pride as the award winners did in the beginning. With the addition of the Binational Gulf Guardian award in 2005, we now appropriately pay tribute to the bond we share in protecting this treasured resource with our southern neighbors and friends.”

For a list of all the Gulf Guardian Award winners for 2009, visit the Gulf of Mexico Program web site at and click on the Gulf Guardian Award button.

Editor’s Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call the Gulf of Mexico Program Office at 228-688-3726 or visit our web site at