Tag Archives: seagrass die off

Overview of Florida Bay’s Water Problems and How They Are Connected to Ours, SLR/IRL

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Florida Bay algae bloom, photo Captain Daniel Andrews at 1500 feet, Dec. 20, 2016

Last Thursday, concerned citizens traveled to Tallahassee. Some were from the East Coast, some were from the West Coast, and some were from Florida’s Southern Tip. Those from the Southern Tip, like us from the Northern Estuaries, are experiencing a die off.

But their estuary is even larger and more famous; its name is Florida Bay. The sometimes confusing part of reading about all the present water issues is that Florida Bay’s die off is due to lack of fresh water, rather than too much such as ours. Nonetheless, as with everything in life, it’s all connected.

Florida Bay has been heavily impacted over the years not only because of the redirection of about *20 percent of its waters from Lake Okeechobee that used to flow south, but also due to the encroachment of development into the Everglades’ watershed near Homestead and north thereof. Years ago this development cut off water to Florida Bay especially through Taylor Slough, a shallow river.  (See map below)

During a recent visit, my husband and I noted this area east of Everglades National Park experiencing a real estate boom of highway construction and the sell off of agricultural lands for residential development, so this encroachment issue will only increase over the coming years.

Shark River Slough, to the east, is much larger and also feeds the Bay. (See map below)

Although the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corp of Engineers have been “working hard” on the area of the Taylor Slough area of the state, it will not be enough to save the dying Bay that has lost up to 50,000 acres of seagrass recently according to Dr Davis of the Everglades Foundation and reports by local fishermen.

The photos shared in this post by Captain Daniel Andrews of Ft Meyers show the a section of the Bay on December 20th, 2016, at around 1500 feet south of Cape Sable. Cape Sable is west of Taylor Slough but still affected. The waters of the Bay have been decreased not only through Taylor Slough, but also Shark River Slew, of which Lake Okeechobee was once connected as documented by our Native Americans.

Captain Daniel said in an interview: ” The last major die off the Bay had was in 1987, and it resulted in a decade of algae blooms from all the nutrients that were released by the decaying grass. It took ten years for it to recover.”

Now this cycle is happening all over again, in sync with toxic blooms in the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries caused by too much water.

Too little or too much. We are all connected…

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National Park Service report on dying seagrasses and algae blooms in Florida Bay: https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/upload/seagrass-Dieoff_final_web_hi_res.pdf

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Photo courtesy of Captain Daniel Andrews, Captains For Clean Water

* Florida Park Service, Everglades National Park

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Captain Daniel Andrews can be contacted at:https://captainsforcleanwater.org

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How About a Toll Bridge to Raise Money for the Indian River Lagoon?

The Jensen Bridge was completed in 1927. (Photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Bob Washam.)
The Jensen Bridge was completed in 1927. (Photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Bob Washam.)

The idea of a toll bridge over the Indian River Lagoon is not a new one as there were toll bridges in Jensen and Stuart in Martin County’s early days.

Toll Tickets for the Jensen Bridge. Courtesy Bob Washam.
Toll Tickets for the Jensen Bridge. Courtesy Bob Washam.
Cover of toll ticket packet for Jensen Bridge. Courtesy Bob Washam.
Cover of toll ticket packet for Jensen Bridge. Courtesy Bob Washam.

As my mother says in her Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River book:

“People fishing on both side os the Jensen Bridge made it necessary for automobiles to cross the narrow wooden bridge with extreme  caution.” 

Over time, we have had caution for people, but not for fish.

This morning the Tyler Treadway’s article in the Stuart News states there has been a catfish kill along the Indian River Lagoon Ft Pierce north; it is not yet reported to be in Martin County; in the 1920s no such virus or water quality issues prevailed and fishing was the sport of the day, some of the best in the nation, along the bridges, in the forks, in the St Lucie and Indian River Lagoon, along the clean and sparkling Atlantic Ocean…

Unidentified man with Goliath Grouper caught in area. Photo courtesy of Bob Washam.
Unidentified man with Goliath Grouper caught in Jensen area. Photo courtesy of Bob Washam.

Mrs Thurlow writes in her book:

The Jensen Bridge was instrumental in the development of Jensen with its numerous tourists camps. In the 1930s, the Pitchford, Gideon, and Wade camps sprang up at the western end of the bridge. Other camps, including the massive Ocean Breeze Park, soon followed. The Jensen Bridge was given so much publicity that it became a nationally famous fishing pier.”

"the Jensen Beach Bridge was advertised in the Martin County Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide, published in 1935. (Courtesy of Robert McClinton Pitchford, Thurlow archives.)
“The Jensen Beach Bridge was advertised in the Martin County Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide, published in 1935. (Courtesy of Robert McClinton Pitchford, Thurlow archives.)

Today the Indian River Lagoon is still famous for fishing, but also for its seagrass loss and declining fish stock. Yesterday, my father gave me an issue of Florida Sport Fishing, the lead article was entitled “Gator County, Florida ‘s Famed East Coast Lagoon System May No Longer Be the State’s Premier Destination for Giant Trout,” by Jerry McBride.

The beginning of the article reads:

“Two miles of previously lush green vegetation dotted with sandy potholes and carved by narrow channels–once home to monster gator trout–has been reduced to a single acre of sparse seagrass, I fished the entire stretch in less than an hour and paddled home… The estuary’s south end is losing its 80 plus year battle against polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, while the rest of the 156 miles long waterways faces an even more insidious adversary—a multi-source nutrient-fueled brown algae scourge that virtually overnight reduced 43,000 acres of rich seagrass habitat to a sandy desert…”

Most of this seagrass loss may have happened north of us, but it is here too. Also, the lagoon is one waterway, whether it is Lake Okeechobee and local canal releases here in Martin County,  or brown tide in the central and north lagoon, we are all affected.

Usually on Friday I try to post something positive and happy.

I have been wanting to share friend Bob Washam’s Jensen Bridge photos,  today was the day.  Nonetheless, I could not ignore the slow and now pronounced losses to our Indian River Lagoon, especially in light of Mr Treaway’s article this morning.

If the tin-can tourist who hardly had a nickel in their packs could be raised from their graves to see what has happened to the Indian River Lagoon,  I am certain they would say:

“You may have more money, but you sure lost a piece of Heaven…and which would you rather have?”

One good thing is that nature is programmed to heal itself, may we have the strength to continue to fight for some semblance of the “good old days,” and should we need to exact a toll on our bridges to start an IRL Fund, I’ll vote “yes.”

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Courtesy SCRIPPS NEWSPAPERS/PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT

Stuart News announcement 10/10/14:

Catfish die-off hits lagoon
By Tyler Treadway

tyler.treadway@TCPalm.com 772-221-4219

Thousands of dead hardhead catfish are floating in the Indian River Lagoon from Palm Bay to Fort Pierce.

Because only one species is affected and all the dead fish are juveniles mostly from 4 to 12 inches long, a local marine biologist believes the cause is a specific virus rather than poor water quality in the lagoon.

Weve had die-offs like this in the lagoon before, where only sea cats and nothing else was dying,said Grant Gilmore, lead scientist of Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science in Vero Beach.

The cause was a viral infection back then, so I would assume its the same this time. Kelly Richmond, a spokeswoman at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission laboratory in St. Petersburg, said the agencys hotline has received 16 reports of dead catfish beginning Monday.

Staffers collected three live catfish and water samples from the lagoon for analysis.

Results should be available early next week, Richmond said, and the agency wont guess at a cause until then.

Paul Fafeita, a Vero Beach fishing guide, said he saw dead catfish Wednesday morning in the lagoon from the Barber Bridge in Vero Beach to the North Causeway bridge at Fort Pierce.

Im talking hundreds, if not thousands of dead fish,Fafeita said.­They werent sporadic, one here and one there. They were steady, up and down the lagoon. Mike Peppe, a Sebastian fishing guide, reported seeing dead catfish Wednesday in the lagoon from Wabasso to the Sebastian Inlet.

They were everywhere,Peppe said.There had to be thousands. Look down and youd see a bunch of white things in the waterthe catsbellies.