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MRC: Lagoon Water Quality Improves, Sea Grass Continues to Die Off

Photo courtesy Marine Resources Council
The Marine Resources Council has released its annual report card grading the water quality and habitat health of the Indian River Lagoon

Good news and bad news about the Indian River Lagoon. In its annual report on the water quality and habitat health of the Lagoon, the Marine Resources Council found that the water quality is getting better, but the sea grass is continuing to die off.

MRC Executive Director Leesa Souto spoke about the results during a webinar Thursday. She began by announcing “We got good news! What we’re doing appears to be working!" But she qualified that by adding "to some extend.”

"We’re making progress," said Souto. "The water is cleaner and there is less harmful algae.” She said the the water quality scores for the Lagoon continue to improve "across the board."

The progress is notable within the Lagoon south of the Sebastian Inlet to the St. Lucie County line where the water quality is now rated as average. However there is still a long way to go. The overall water quality in the lagoon is still rated as very poor, and even though there has been some improvement in the water quality, the sea grass is not returning.

MRC Indian River Lagoon Report Card
Image courtesy MRC
MRC Indian River Lagoon Report Card

“In nearly every region of the lagoon the water quality is improving, the sea grass is not,” said Souto. Sea grass is "the foundational web" of the Lagoon, she said, upon which so many others species depend, from the shrimp to the manatees.

“Without sea grass as that foundational feature of the food chain, everything is starting to collapse in the lagoon," she said, "everything that depends on sea grass to eat is disappearing as well.”

And Souto says they don’t know why. Some believe that the sediment on the bottom of the lagoon has become too contaminated, others suggest it may be overgrazing, still others think that there is something else in the water chemistry causing the sea grass to die.

“We don’t know what is causing sea grass to not return," she said, "and that’s a serious problem.”