Species supporting valuable Atlantic coast fisheries depend upon the nursery provided by the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system. Much of this important habitat exists as vast expanses of underwater meadows known as submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). North Carolina has more SAV acreage than any other Atlantic coast state except Florida, 99% of that coverage being within the Albemarle-Pamlico region.
Recognizing the need to assess and protect SAV, the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership (APNEP) has facilitated an interagency SAV Partnership since 2004. The partnership coordinated and funded the first coastwide SAV aerial survey during 2006-2008.
APNEP also funded and published in 2011 an interpretative SAV map, which was later featured in the 2012 APNEP Ecosystem Assessment. With a baseline established, APNEP facilitated a second aerial survey during 2012-2014. The second map is scheduled for release in 2017 and will allow for the detection of trends in SAV coverage.
To compliment the aerial surveys, APNEP since 2014 is facilitating the development of a SAV sentinel network. Monitoring at sentinel network stations includes the use of boat-based sonar and video technology with in-water observations. APNEP was recently awarded a $75,000 National Fish and Wildlife Federation grant to work with partners at East Carolina University to build upon these efforts and support development of an integrated SAV monitoring network throughout the APNEP region.