Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bay's better water quality is good news for sea grass, fish

For nearly 40 years, biologists have been measuring Tampa Bay's water quality and hoping it will get cleaner.

Last year, for only the fourth time, the state's largest estuary met all of its water quality targets, the experts from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program announced Tuesday.

They're just not sure why.

Since 1974 the estuary program's scientists have checked the quality in the four sections of the bay — Old Tampa Bay, Hillsborough Bay, Middle Tampa Bay and Lower Tampa Bay — to see whether the water is clean enough to promote the natural recovery of sea grass.

Sea grasses are crucial to the health of the bay, but decades ago they declined sharply and by 1982 there were only 22,000 acres left.

By 2011, though, strenuous local government efforts to clean up pollution flowing into the bay had encouraged the spread of sea grass until it covered nearly 33,000 acres of the bay, leading to a rebound of fish population, particularly redfish and spotted sea trout.

The bay's water quality has fluctuated, as measured by the amount of microscopic algae in the water (as indicated by chlorophyll, a plant pigment) and the amount of visible sunlight penetrating the water. Both are important indicators for the growth of sea grass.

Not until 2006 did every corner of the bay register as clean enough to grow sea grass, and the bay repeated that feat in 2007 and 2010.

In other years, though, the water quality in Old Tampa Bay, which encompasses the part of the bay near Clearwater, Safety Harbor and Oldsmar, slipped. That area has been repeatedly plagued by algae blooms that can kill fish. Estuary program experts blamed pollution-laden runoff they called "urban slobber."

But last summer there was no big algae bloom, said Nanette O'Hara of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. When biologists checked the pollution levels, they found that for the first time since 2010 the whole bay was good enough to foster sea grass recovery.

O'Hara said scientists are hopeful that the next check of the spread of sea grass through the bay shows another increase, thanks to the water quality.

Craig Pittman can be reached at craig@tampabay.com

Bay's better water quality is good news for sea grass, fish 02/19/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 10:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  2. Late night update: Second wave follows Tropical Storm Harvey

    Hurricanes

    UPDATE: At 11 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  3. Stealth anti-Jack Latvala group tied to Adam Putnam campaign

    Blogs

    Politico reports:

     A longtime political consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam is behind a website calling one of his rivals in the race, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a “liberal.”

  4. Council gives in to pension dispute with St. Pete firefighters

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council was forced to consider its first labor dispute in years Thursday when it gave the firefighters union most of the pension enhancements it has long asked for.

    The firefighters’ union won a pension victory at Thursday’s City Council meeting. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES]
  5. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE

    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.