Seagrass comeback good news for health of Tampa Bay

Image 1 of 9

It's a big victory for the environment in the Bay Area, but you may not even notice. 

Seagrass is making a comeback and biologists say it's a good sign of the health of the area.

Guiding their boat to a spot on the Tampa Bay, Tom Ries and Brad Young see the richness of the bottom first-hand.

"I grew up on Tampa Bay," says Young. "I've personally seen it increase. It makes me ecstatic."

Ries and Young are with Scheda Ecological Associates. They're helping map the the increase of seagrass beds in the bay.

In 2014, scientists announced Tampa Bay had reached levels  of seagrass not seen since the 1950s. They say the grasses on the bottom provide habitat for fish, help clean the water, and indicate the health of the bay.

The new 2016 seagrass map produced by the SWIM program of the Southwest Florida Water Management District shows even higher levels than 2014 - a gain of more than 1,300 acres. The new map shows more than 41,000 acres across the bay.

Ries says seagrass beds around Pinellas County may or may not have been affected by big sewage spills in September of 2016.

"It's nitrogen going into the Bay, the very thing we've been trying to take out for decades," says Ries. "So we are concerned to see if there's a decrease in sea grasses." 

Ries says aerial surveys conducted later this year should determine if any seagrass was lost to the spills.