Massachusetts DMF Eelgrass Team Receives the 2019 Melissa Laser Fish Habitat Conservation Award

December 9, 2019

New Castle, New Hampshire – The 2019 Melissa Laser Fish Habitat Conservation Award was presented by Kent Smith, Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership (ACFHP) Chair, and Mark Rousseau, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA DMF), to Tay Evans, Jillian Carr, Kate Frew, and Alex Boeri of MA DMF on October 28th at the 78th Annual Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting in New Castle, New Hampshire. Ms. Evans was there to accept the award on behalf of all recipients, collectively known as the DMF Eelgrass Team. The Team is responsible for the restoration of over 20 acres of eelgrass habitat in Massachusetts between 2004 and 2019. This is one of the largest and most successful eelgrass restoration programs in New England. The Team has perfected planting and monitoring methods, yet still work toward optimizing its methods for efficiency. This Team also assesses the effectiveness of conservation boat moorings, which have been funded in part by ACFHP. Conservation moorings have the capacity to lessen damage to eelgrass beds if installed and maintained properly. The Team’s work early in the adoption of this technology was critical in identifying best management recommendations for these moorings before their widespread use.

The Team’s eelgrass work exemplifies ACFHP’s mission of accelerating restoration of native estuarine habitats. Its passion is unparalleled, spending hundreds of hours underwater while still finding time to communicate about its work and provide technical assistance to towns and researchers embarking on eelgrass studies and restoration. The Team’s collaborations are leading to improved assessments of the blue carbon value, as well as the genetic diversity and resilience of eelgrass. It is because of its unwavering commitment to the restoration of this habitat, and persistence in the face of damaging winter storms, bioturbation, and macroalgae that Boston Harbor’s eelgrass is flourishing.

The Melissa Laser Fish Habitat Conservation Award is bestowed upon individuals deemed to further the conservation, protection, restoration, and enhancement of habitat for native Atlantic coastal, estuarine-dependent, and diadromous fishes in a unique or extraordinary manner. The award was established in memory of Dr. Melissa Laser who passed away unexpectedly on April 27, 2010. Melissa was a biologist with the Maine Department of Marine Resources where she worked tirelessly to protect, improve, and restore aquatic ecosystems in Maine and along the entire Atlantic coast. As an astute strategic thinker and leader, Melissa edited and coordinated the Strategic and Operational Plan for the Restoration of Diadromous and Resident Fishes to the Penobscot River. She coordinated fish passage projects, managed and oversaw the biological field staff for the Maine Western Region, and was the Bureau of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat Program lead for habitat restoration studies and projects. She was also an effective champion for Atlantic salmon, directing and coordinating Endangered Species Act-related actions pertaining to the species. Melissa brought her smiling dedication and enthusiasm to the Commission’s Habitat Committee and ACFHP’s Steering Committee.  

For more information on the Melissa Laser Award, please visit: melissa-laser-fish-habitat-conservation-award/.

Kent Smith (ACFHP Chair, far left), Mark Rousseau (MA DMF, left), and Jim Gilmore (ASMFC Chair, far right) present the Melissa Laser Fish Habitat Conservation Award to Tay Evans (MA DMF, right). Photo credit: L. Leach, ASMFC