After years of restoration projects and water quality improvements, Tampa Bay seagrass beds have returned to 1950s levels.
Vital to the lives of a multitude of marine species, conservationists recently celebrated the return of Tampa Bay seagrass beds to the healthy levels not witnessed in 60 years.
According to WUSF News, Tampa Bay now boasts 40,295 acres of seagrasses, passing the goal of 38,000 acres set 10 years earlier by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. This success was the result of collaboration between local governments, regulatory agencies, industries, scientists and citizens to improve water quality and fund seagrass planting projects.
Tampa Bay is the largest estuary in Florida, home to hundreds of species of fish including snook, trout, redfish and tarpon which attract fishermen in droves each year. The seagrasses are an essential component of their survival as well as vital to the well-being of dolphins, turtles, manatees, and sea birds who feed in these lush, underwater gardens.
However, sections of the bay have been dredged to accommodate the Port of Tampa which lures billions of gallons of oil, fertilizer and other hazardous materials through these waters, rendering this a fragile environment.
Still, with groups like the Tampa Bay Estuary Program leading the way, there is vigilance and reason for optimism for the continued health of Tampa Bay seagrass beds.