An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Sarasota County Water Atlas


Oysters have long been recognized as key bioindicators of the ecological health of marine and estuarine ecosystems. Changes in oyster health can provide an early warning of potential adverse impacts associated with hydrological alterations occurring throughout the watershed. Monitoring those changes is a simple, cost-effective tool to document those changes and allows watershed managers to quickly identify and minimize those impacts.

The Sarasota County Oyster Monitoring Program was designed to examine the role of Crassostrea virginica (Eastern Oyster) as an environmental indicator of watershed health. In the fall of 2003, Sarasota County began monitoring C. virginica in the Dona and Roberts Bay (DARB) watershed to determine the impacts of freshwater flows from Cow Pen Slough and the Myakka River/Blackburn Canal. Sites were chosen in Shakett and Curry Creeks, and Lyons, Dona, and Roberts Bays. In addition to the oyster data, rainfall, salinity, and discharge flow data, where available, were collected and used in the analyses. Staff was able to establish a link between declines in the percentage of live oysters and increased freshwater input in those sites receiving high freshwater in-flows.

In the fall of 2006, the program was expanded to include sites in other coastal watersheds: Sarasota Bay Watershed (Hudson Bayou and Phillippi Creek); Little Sarasota Bay Watershed (Matheny, North, Catfish, and South Creeks); and Lemon Bay Watershed (Alligator, Forked, Gottfried, and Ainger Creeks). The expanded monitoring program provides comprehensive data for the entire county that can be used to track watershed health, evaluate the success of watershed management projects, and track the overall success of the county's comprehensive watershed management practices.

Report on Sarasota County Oyster Monitoring Program, 2008-2012: Mapping Oyster Habitat in Sarasota County Florida Waters

View the Sarasota County Oyster Habitats interactive map

Site Percent Live Oysters by Year
Excellent (>75%), Good (50-75%), Caution (<50%)
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Alligator Creek 63 68 61 62 69 43 49 65 81 77
Alligator Creek 78 84 66 69 80 21 49 73 49 47
Ainger Creek 75 75 46 80 79 75 74 72 80 87
Ainger Creek 85 72 55 80 72 52 85 73 76 70
Catfish Creek 76 88 94 70 2 0 0
Curry Creek 0 41 59 59 71 80 68 76 71 61 61 68 45 53 52
Curry Creek 13 51 74 91 47 59 77 55 21 33 38 35 23
Dona Bay 22 58 76 64 73 77 67 84 82 74 77 71 79 70 80
Forked Creek 64 50 36 48 33 0 84 81 82
Forked Creek 44
Forked Creek 77 79 69 73 85 72 86 85 87 74
Gottfried Creek 72 75 68 84 84 80 72 86 80 78
Gottfried Creek 79 70 63 70 76 46 79 75 78 58
Gottfried Creek 81 55 55 64 60 69 75 55 64 55
Hudson Bayou 78 75 77 71 79 87 59 85 87 88 86
Hudson Bayou 54 66 63 67 67 70 68 71 63 70 69
Lyons Bay 80 79 80 77 63 71 78 74 73 75 68 83 84 77 88
North Creek 82 76 69 77 77 85 82
North Creek 0 85 47 59 50 0 0
North Creek 72
North Creek 86 85 81
Phillippi Creek 56 76 54 77 78 77 72 56 79 85 80
Phillippi Creek 60 81 75 72 78 80 67 64 83 88 80
Phillippi Creek 21 84 75 66 70 46 23 68 67 55 48
Roberts Bay 79 78 73 73 76 79 80 83 89 87 80 86 77 74 86
South Creek 57 54 62 64 78 80 69 56 67 82 78
South Creek 0 58 85 78 68 73 80 66 75 62 69 68
Shakett Creek 8 79 89 72 86 82 82 86 78 88 83 62
Shakett Creek 76 55 56 80 81 81 84 81 78 62 87 65 74 49
Shakett Creek 36 37 16
Shakett Creek 79 87 73 84 83 61 38 55 35 22 10

View the Sarasota County Oyster Habitats interactive map