Longboat Key businesses bank on a healthy bay
Business owners and residents explain why a healthy Sarasota Bay is important for the quality of life in Longboat Key.
Shane Catts can recall what Sarasota Bay looked like decades ago.
The 40-year-old owner of Happy Paddler Kayak Tours remembers visiting his grandparents, who used to live right behind his current business in Bayfront Park.
“They no longer live there, but so I grew up playing up here, and so I can see the changes that have occurred in the last 40 years,” Catts said. “I mean, it’s very apparent. It has me gravely concerned for the long-term future of the bay.”
In a recent report to the town, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Executive Director David Tomasko said his organization has found higher values of nitrogen and chlorophyll in recent years in the Sarasota Bay waters, leading to his organization's concerns about algae blooms. He also mentioned how Sarasota Bay has seen a significant reduction in seagrass coverage.
In 2019, Sarasota Bay received from the organization a 2.25 score out of 4. The Bay got a 1.75 in 2018. The two scores measuring the bay’s health were the lowest recorded by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program’s report card system, which dates back to 2006.
Tomasko says the scores are attributed to the 2018 red tide outbreak and potential effects from the Piney Point leak.
“In 2018 when you had the red tide, when you had fish kills and smelly water and flies everywhere, the economy sucked, and it did in part because no one wanted to be by the bay,” Tomasko said. “The point I guess is, it doesn’t have to be just red tide.''