From Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Director Dave Tomasko:
Yesterday, Jay [Leverone] and I were accompanied by Dr. Angela Collins (UF SeaGrant) and also Dr. Stephen Hesterberg and Betsy Potter (Gulf Shellfish Institute - GSI) as we visited 34 sites in upper Sarasota Bay. Of those 34 sites, 23 of them were located in areas where seagrass meadows that were mapped in 2018 were no longer visible for mapping in 2020. Last summer, we set up those monitoring sites, in coordination with our partners at the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC). The area of interest for this effort is focused on upper Sarasota Bay, north and south of Longbar Point. That area was the epicenter of the 2,000 acre seagrass loss that occurred after the combination of 2016’s red tide, 2017’s Hurricane Irma, and the more intense 2018 red tide. Keep in mind, the 2018 red tide was likely made worse by the fact that the month of May in 2018 had more urban stormwater runoff than any other May in over 100 years, in combination with the worst year over the past two decades for wastewater overflows.
However, our results from yesterday are encouraging. Of the sites we visited, only 3% showed evidence of continued decline. 41% of the sites were the same as last summer, while 56% showed evidence of improvement – more seagrass than was encountered a year ago. This makes sense, because our water quality across the bay is now better than it has been at any time over the past 5 to 15 years (depending on location).