2021 report card: Poor water quality causes manatee deaths, seagrass loss in lagoon

Article Posted on March 10, 2022

Seagrass in Martin County's stretch of the Indian River Lagoon is struggling to overcome years of freshwater Lake Okeechobee discharges, even as water quality improves slightly, according to an annual report released Thursday.

Habitat health in the south-central lagoon scored an "extremely poor" grade of 3%  — 1% worse than last year — in the nonprofit Marine Resources Council's 2021 report.

The report underscores the need for immediate action to reverse the continued seagrass decline in the Indian River Lagoon, and with it a record number of dead manatees, in one of North America's most biodiverse estuaries. 

It's the fifth consecutive year the area between the St. Lucie River's south fork and the north Palm Beach County line scored below 5%, after a 2016 deluge of polluted Lake O discharges decimated seagrass, lowering the habitat health score from 56% to zero.

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