Updated: Jul 2, 2019
Mosquito Lagoon is one of Code Red Fishing Charter’s favorite fishing spots. Seagrass is essential to the ecosystem of the lagoon. Only two and a half acres of seagrass can support as many as 100,000 fish species and 100 million invertebrates. Preservation of the lagoon’s ecosystem is essential to preserving fishing at the lagoon for generations to come.
The lagoon is a biologically diverse estuary, which relies on the submerged vegetation. Mosquito Lagoon is an estuary located in the northern end of the Indian River Lagoon system (IRL). It is one of three distinct bodies of water that comprises the IRL. The Indian River Lagoon system hosts more than 2000 species of plants. Mosquito Lagoon is one of the least developed regions of Florida’s east coast, and has a resident population of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. With salinity levels comparable to ocean levels, it hosts common fish species found in the ocean, such as redfish, tarpon and snook. Seagrass plays a vital role in the lagoon.
The submerged vegetation of Mosquito Lagoon performs many essential functions that the ecosystem of the waters rely upon. The leaves of seagrass maintain water clarity by trapping fine sediments and particles. The roots and rhizomes stabilize the bottom of the lagoon. Seagrass is home to nutrient-rich organisms, such as algae, which provides a source of food to the marine life. Seagrass also provides a canopy to protect marine life and fish species, such as sea bass, redfish, tarpon, snook, manatee, sea turtles, etc. Additionally, manatees, urchins, and turtles eat the blades of seagrass and benefit from its nutrients. The microbial breakdown of leaves and roots provides a vital source of food. Seagrass increases levels of dissolved oxygen in the water that supports the breathing aquatic life.
We can think of seagrass like flowering plants that are submerged in marine and estaurine waters. These abundant nutrient-rich underwater plants are dependent on water clarity to survive. As other plants require sunlight, so does the submerged vegetation of Mosquito Lagoon. Seagrass is sensitive to changes in the lagoon’s environment. Since these underwater plants require light in their photosynthesis process, water clarity is important. Murky water blocks sunlight and catastrophically affects the submerged vegetation, which equally affects the ecosystem of the waters.
There are ecological concerns that demand attention to protect our favorite fishing spot. There have been reports of an increase in algae blooms. Algae blooms are the result of an excess of nutrients that filtrate into the water, like phosphorus and nitrogen. If this makes you think of fertilizer, there is a reason for it. These are the common nutrients found in plant fertilizer. We might think this supports the vegetation of the lagoon; however, the results are something very different.
Higher concentrations of these nutrients produce an increase in plant growth, but it does not discriminate between algae growth and other vegetation found in Mosquito Lagoon. As more algae grows, others die. The dead algae is organic matter, which is broken down by bacteria as food. During the process, the bacteria decompose the algae. It creates a cycle of more available food, more bacteria to participate in the decomposition, and a decrease in dissolved oxygen, which is a consequential effect. When the dissolved oxygen content decreases, we observe a decrease of marine life, such as redfish, tarpon and snook. This cycle creates a “dead area.”
Why is there an excessive amount of nitrogen and phosphorus? What is the solution to the ecological damage? Septic tanks are not a sewage treatment plant, and rely on the filtration of soil. However, septic tanks do not perform well in the porous soil of coastal areas. High levels of fertilizer run-off combines with septic drainage, and makes its way into tidal creeks and canals that flow into the Indian River Lagoon system. Algal blooms are the product.
It seems there are two major concerns for Mosquito Lagoon, fertilizer and septic systems. Fertilizer could be the main culprit. Bans on fertilizer use and increased regulation is an ongoing effort. Each year, Brevard County updates the “Save Our Indian River Lagoon Project Plan.” The latest proposals were to allocate approximately $28.1 million to fund additional septic to sewer projects, and to allocate approximately $10 million to dredging and water treatment.
Three years ago, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) reported that more than 100 new septic tank permits were issued in July of 2016. In August of 2016, FCIR also reported that the Martin County Commissioner would be spearheading a $138 million dollar project to assist more than 10,000 houses to transition to closed sewage lines. In an effort to protect ground and surface water, the Florida Department of Health in Brevard County Environmental Health Services permits, regulates and inspects new systems, and also regulates repairs and modifications to existing septic systems. The issue of algae blooms has been an ongoing concern for local government. We hope to make it a concern for local residents.
The goal of Code Red Fishing Charters is to maintain an enjoyable and exciting fishing experience, while supporting the preservation of Mosquito Lagoon and indigenous fish species. When we become more aware of ecological concerns, and the practices that contribute to healthy waters, we can work together to preserve Mosquito Lagoon.
We want to continue to enjoy fishing the Lagoon for generations to come. If you want to learn more about preserving the seagrass of Mosquito lagoon, and catch some redfish in the process, contact Code Red Fishing Charters! You can enjoy a private instructional fishing charter on Mosquito Lagoon with Captain Matt Lee.
Call Captain Matt Lee to book your fishing charter at (386) 214-3530!
TYPES OF SEAGRASS
Shoal grass is the most common type of seagrass. It is abundant in shallow waters and tolerates a range salinity content. It produces a cluster of leaves, each having a notch at the tip. The root system grows rapidly and stabilizes sediment.
Widgeon grass grows in shallow water. It grows in patches. It is usually found where water salinity is low. The blades taper to long pointed tip.
Manatee grass is found commonly at depths of about five feet. It is usually found in mixed beds with other species. It produces cylindrical blades with two to four blades from each node.
Star grass is commonly found in the northern lagoon. It grows at various depths. It can also be found in mixed beds. It produces four to eight blades, about an inch long, forming a star-like pattern.
Turtle grass is commonly found at mid-depths. It produces flat, ribbon-like blades, about a half inch in width. It requires more light than other seagrass. It is a good indicator of health and stability of water quality.
Johnson’s seagrass is only found in the southern part of the lagoon. It is short with paired leaves. They form dense patches. The National Marine Fisheries Service considers Johnson’s seagrass a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.