Dead seagrass in Tampa Bay is one of the long-term effects of red tide

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Red tide levels may be low, but the Tampa Bay area is still seeing the effects from last year's bloom. Some people have reported seeing large globs of dead seagrass in parts of the bay.

Large clusters of dead seagrass can be seen floating on the surface in the Intracoastal Waterway near Treasure Island. It's just one section of the bay still seeing the effects of red tide.

"We're seeing blobs of black debris and brown debris and clumps and stickiness and it's just so thick and airy," fishing captain Karen Hughart said.

It's a problem fishing captain Karen Hughart has seen first-hand. She takes charters out on a daily basis to fish, but she said there's very few areas you can fish lately without catching dead seagrass.

"It's just sad. I feel like, how can this be good?" Hughart said. "It's all going out as I'm going out fishing out to the Gulf of Mexico and the out-going tides. Here comes all this sludge floating into our beautiful gulf."
According to biologist Tom Ries, who has more than 30 years of experience studying seagrass, last year's toxic algae bloom wiped out a significant portion of our local ecosystem's seagrass. In some places, as much as 50% of the vegetation is gone.

"It's not too unusual to see blue-green algae and grass floating, but the amount this early in the year are unusual," Ries said.
Seagrass typically rises to the surface in the fall, but this year's early appearance could pose a danger to the local ecosystem with more nutrients entering the water.

"When there's nutrients in the water with this kind of light and temperature, there's a lot of stuff that grows, which could be Chlorophyll A and in this case could be blue-green algae," Ries said.

As Ries explained, seagrass is essentially a barometer of health, which means the more there is, they healthier the water.

He said it could be at least 4 years for the seagrass to fully re-populate.