Biologists work to find main cause of fish kill in Indian River Lagoon

Biologists work to find main cause of fish kill in Indian River Lagoon

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Local and state biologists are surveying a major fish kill along the Indian River Lagoon.

The full extent of the problem is still not known, but since Friday, residents have seen scores of dead fish floating in the river.

Michelle Spahn and Tonya Morgan were back on the Banana River on Tuesday for their Wildside Tours business, which offers boating expeditions.

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A major fish kill in the Indian River Lagoon is more than a passing concern for the women.

“Usually, this time of year there’s little visibility. Normally what happens is, in the summer, we get these algae blooms and then the cold water in the winter usually kills off those algae blooms, but it’s not dying this year,” said Spahn.

The casualties include all variety of fish.

“We’re seeing stingrays, horseshoe crabs, sheepshead, the mullet, the flounder—everything is being impacted by what’s going on here in the lagoon,” said Spahn.

Brevard County Natural Resources and Florida Fish and Wildlife are still conducting tests, but the county said there are a lot of nutrients in the water, causing the algae to bloom.

When the nutrients are depleted and the algae starts to decompose, the dissolved oxygen drops, killing the fish.

“I’ve never seen a fish kill like this and it is really sad. This worries me. It really does, because everything is dying,” said Morgan.

Marty Baum, of Indian Riverkeeper, an organization that helps protect and restore the Indian River Lagoon, said it’s largely a man-made problem.

“Right now, one of the big issues is that if all the nutrients stop going into the lagoon, we have all the legend pollution in the sediment,” said Baum. “The bottom line is, everybody has an impact.”

County officials said residents can help by keeping grass clippings out of storm drains and follow the county’s fertilizer ordinance.

This weekend, Alex Gorichky, a charter captain, is organizing a demonstration to raise awareness about the lagoon.

“Unfortunately, until a few days ago, very few people knew there was a problem with the water,” he said.