It’s no secret that the Eastern Central Florida lagoon system has been hit hard by recent impacts on the local environment. Numerous news outlets have written stories on the huge algae blooms in 2012 and 2013 which plagued the lagoon systems. The algae blooms have since subsided for the most part due to winter water temperatures- but it remains to be seen if they will return for a third straight year. Is this the new normal?
One of the hardest hit areas is the Mosquito Lagoon, which has lost a large percentage of its seagrass in recent years. Just going out and fishing the [Mosquito] lagoon will dishearten any local who knows what the seagrass should be looking like.
News outlets have also reported about the pelican, dolphin, and manatee kills which have occured in the lagoon system all across the Eastern system in Florida from Daytona to Palm beach.
The loss of seagrass means loss of habitat for food and also spawning predatory fish which use the seagrass as cover and overall habitat to grow. If you ask any good steward of the Mosquito Lagoon who fishes is regularly, they will tell you that fish numbers have declined in recent years leading to bad days on the water much more frequently than when the Mosquito Lagoon was in it’s famous ‘glory days’ of years past.
Correlation does not equal causation, but let these satellite photos speak for themselves. These sets of photos are from archived Google Earth photo sets dating back to 2009, as well as brand new photos Google has just released from the same timeframe (February-March) in 2014. This same timeframe of photos rules out seasonal seagrass growth which expands and receeds with water temperature. And with that said, given the ‘great freeze’ of 2009 which killed off record fish in Florida- the grass in these photos from AFTER the 2009 freeze is twice as vibrant than it is in 2014.
Mosquito Lagoon North End March 2009
Here we can see a portion North of the old channel and just south of it full of seagrass.
Mosquito Lagoon North End February 2014
In 2014, much of the seagrass has receeded and turned to barren sand.
Mosquito Lagoon Central Region March 2009
Here we can see the Central lagoon region full of seagrass.
Mosquito Lagoon Central Region February 2014
And in 2014; notice in the left of the satellite photo, as well as the bottom right just South of the islands- the dark green seagrass has been replaced with more sandflats barren of any life.
It remains to be seen what the long term effects will be. The fishery may rebound, and we may never see another algae bloom. At this point, no one knows and we can only hope for the best case scenario for the future of this fishery.