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2019 State of the Bay report: Water quality in Tampa Bay continues to improve

Seagrass Chart

The state of Tampa Bay report comes out every three years, and the latest one shows the water body is in pretty good shape. It wasn't too long ago that pollution killed a lot of life in the bay.

The report says the bay is continuing its upswing, both in the clarity of the water and its numbers of fish and oysters. Ed Sherwood, executive director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, says sea grasses are nearly double the amount found in the 1970s.

"But the issues from last year related to the red tide and some of the ongoing algal bloom we have still in Old Tampa Bay," he said, "keeps us cognizant of the fact that we still need to do our best to reduce nutrient loads coming from a variety of different sources in our watershed and going into our water bodies."

Sherwood says the area's burgeoning human population remains a challenge, as well as rising seas nipping away at mangroves and coastal marshes.

He says they have been successful in reducing emissions from point sources, such as sewage outfalls, and from power plants. Summertime fertilizer bans have helped, but runoff from creeks and streams remains a problem.

"We're actively pursuing a lot of shellfish oyster restoration projects, particularly in Old Tampa Bay, because we think that will have a dual benefit of not only enhancing those habitats, but potentially improving water quality," Sherwood said. "There's an algal bloom that occurs every summer there called paradinium that blooms there basically because there's poor tidal circulation in Old Tampa Bay. And we think that restoring oysters in that part of the bay will help water qualit