About 100 people take part in fifth-annual event.
Volunteers fanned out across Sarasota Bay on Saturday as part of the county’s Seagrass Survey, an event that is part social occasion, part awareness-raising effort and mostly a scientific endeavor meant as an annual health screening for the 150 square-mile estuary.
About 100 people signed up for the fifth-annual event, which launched from the Sarasota Sailing Squadron on City Island. In addition to the data gathering, which took place from the Sarasota-Manatee border south toward Siesta Key, there were plenty of displays and exhibits to examine – even a play zone modeled to look like a seagrass bed.
Volunteers in powerboats and kayaks were assigned one of approximately 30 hexagons to examine, identified by GPS coordinates. From there, water clarity and the state of the seagrass beds were assessed and recorded.
Sarasota County Environmental Utility Manager John Ryan said the data collected, in addition to the aerial surveys of Southwest Florida Water Management District, are used to help inform policy decisions at the local and state level.
Seagrass in Sarasota Bay is critical to the development of many marine species, from tiny fish and crabs to much larger animals.
Ryan said the health of the seagrass beds, especially after 2018’s red tide bloom, is a strong indicator of the overall health of the bay. The concern going in was that the red tide outbreak reduced dissolved oxygen near the bottom of the bay’s shallow waters, possibly leading to a seagrass die-off in some areas. Volunteers’ data would be compared to previous years’ results.
But the survey wasn’t all science and data.
About a dozen exhibitors and vendors, such as the Longboat Key Turtle Watch, Sarasota Bay Watch, representatives from Sarasota County, Manatee County and the state parks system, spoke with kids and adults alike, making their points about the health of Sarasota Bay and other ecological pursuits.