The Indian River Estuary is dying

Dead fish are floating on the surface and washing up on the shores. Sea grass patches have diminished to half their original numbers. Manatees, starfish, oysters, and many other marine animals are becoming less in the lagoon as they die or travel to cleaner waters, but the estuary was not always in delicate condition. As little as 70 years ago, it boasted clear water and a healthy habitat for marine life, other animals and birds that depend on it for survival. In fact, it was the most diverse estuary in North America with 2,200 different species of animals and 2,100 species of fish. Alan Richmond, 85-year-old life-long resident of Jensen Beach, Fla., remembers the estuary as it was when he was a child. “I remember fishing off the (old) Roosevelt Bridge and being able to clearly see sea grass, stingrays, and other fish on the bottom of the river,” he said. Now the average clarity depth near the bridge is .75 meters, or half of what it used be. The salinity level in the most delicate area of the estuary, the Indian River Lagoon, has been unnaturally fluctuating. The estuary abandoned it’s natural blue green color and taken on a sickly, brownish black hue, especially in the South Fork of the estuary in Palm City, Fla. What is killing this special habitat, which is doing something about it, and how can you help? Read on to find out.

brown water in the South Fork The South Fork's brown water under the Palm City Bridge. Salinity, oxygen and clarity levels, vital in sustaining fish and plant life, have dramatically declined since the construction of the Okeechobee Waterway.