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Experts Monitor Indian River Lagoon For Signs Of Algal Blooms

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Matthew Peddie
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Rain and hot weather are putting stress on the Indian River Lagoon.

Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program executive director Duane DeFreese said drought conditions earlier this year meant less nutrients were washing into the lagoon.

DeFreese says the water in the lagoon is clearer than last year, when algal blooms triggered massive fish kills.

But he said rainfall combined with summer heat is stimulating the growth of some types of algae and lowering the oxygen level in the water. There are now reports of small blooms and dead fish in parts of the lagoon.

“There have been a few reports of isolated fish mortality events, and again summertime, that whole system is under stress,” DeFreese says.

He said small scale fish kills have been reported off of Merritt Island, Cocoa Beach, the Southern Mosquito Lagoon and Titusville.

People who see dead fish, dolphins or other wildlife in the lagoon should report it to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

De Freese said he’s monitoring the water and hoping to get through the summer without a major algal bloom.

“We’ll have to watch this,” De Freese says.

“We are not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination, but I am happy we haven’t seen worse conditions, and in fact a little surprised that we are looking as good as we are in many places, but not all.”

In the meantime, De Freese said he’s seeing more litter on the beaches and along the causeways.

“Probably because it’s been hot and a lot of people have been getting into the water,” De Freese says.

He said keeping litter out of the lagoon is a simple way to help keep the water clean.

“People can control that, and it’s basically free. If you have garbage, take it home, dispose of it properly.”