June 30, 2015
Tampa Bay's astounding seagrass recovery has spurred fisheries growth such as this large seatrout shown by Capt. Chris Hargiss.
Lighten up, anglers. In fact, cheer a bit.
Enjoy a major victory. Savor it.
We've reached and surpassed a milestone recovery goal for seagrasses in Florida's huge Tampa Bay.
Not since 1950, a time that most of you did not show up for, has the bay been so lush with marine grasses.
Scientists have now counted 40,295 acres of the leafy homes for all manner of life, ranging from jumbo-size seatrout, tarpon and snook to fascinating characters like sea horses.
What a super turn-around these seagrass fields have made. While for a long time we paid much more attention to the staid lawns outside our living rooms than the miles of underwater fish factories out there, it's simply great to experience this recovery. It's nothing short of amazing.
Tampa Bay's success should serve as an important lesson to many other estuarine environments where reckless over-fertilization has caused deadly die-offs and toxic algae blooms.
The success wasn't easy and it wasn't done overnight, but good citizens and knowledgeable officials made it happen. We urge leaders from potentially productive places like Stuart to make regular pilgrimages to learn how to nurture life rather than help exploit it.
It's been 20 years since a fledgling Tampa Bay Estuary Program set a seagrass recovery goal of 38,000 acres. That's now surprassed. The main recovery strategy has relied on controlling nitrogen loadings to allow sufficient water clarity for the grasses to flourish. Various governments and others have spent many millions on it. That's money very well spent.
So, the polluters can be stopped—if citizens demand it.
“The Tampa Bay achievement is even more remarkable when you consider that the bay region has grown by more than a million people in the past 15 years,” said Estuary Program Director Holly Greening.
You'll find details galore about the Tampa Bay victory at the estuary website, tbep.org. And share the word with your nearest public official.
- Karl Wickstrom