Online guide: How to boat and fish without harming Florida Bay

MIAMI -- As captain Rob Clift motored his 19-foot bay boat over a sea grass meadow in Florida Bay last week, he asked his three passengers what color wake his boat was trailing astern. "White," they replied, looking at the foamy bubble trail.

Clift responded with a rhyme: "If your wake is white, you're doing all right. If you see green, cut grass is seen. If you see brown, you're running aground" -- a little goofy, perhaps, but an effective mnemonic device for helping to learn how to navigate one of the region's shallowest and trickiest marine lagoons while avoiding damage to a valuable and sensitive ecosystem.

Clift developed Eco-Mariner, a free online education course for boaters and anglers in Florida Bay. Launched by the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association -- along with environmental, angling, paddling, governmental and business groups -- Eco-Mariner is being used as a pilot program by Everglades National Park, which is considering implementing mandatory permitting/education for boaters. The park's 1.5 million acres include much of Florida Bay and officials are working on a general management plan to conserve those marine waters over the next 20 to 30 years.

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