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Water-Related News

Sarasota Bay losing vital seagrass, research shows

The past two years have been especially brutal on seagrass populations in Southwest Florida waterways, seagrass mapping surveys show.

Between 2018 and 2020, Sarasota Bay lost 18% of its seagrass, which equates to roughly 2,313 acres, according to preliminary research by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. It's a high percentage scientists haven't seen in decades.

"In 2018, we saw the second of two really wicked red tides," said David Tomasko, executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. "And that red tide gave us the biggest single seagrass loss in 30 years."

Red tide, also known as harmful algal blooms, occurs nearly every summer along Florida’s Gulf Coast. When it grows out of control, it can produce toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds.

After Hurricane Irma in 2017, red tide brutalized portions of Florida before finally dissipating in the winter of 2018-19.

The water management district’s chief scientist, Chris Anastasiou, says the ensuing seagrass loss was worse than anticipated.