Officials warn of potential fish kill at Indian River Lagoon

By Greg Pallone, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 07, 2018, 4:14 PM EST

Officials are closely monitoring the Indian River Lagoon after the area experienced warmer-than-average weather during the past several weeks.

  • Officials monitoring Indian River Lagoon for fish kill
  • Algae blooms soaking up oxygen, which could lead to fish kill
  • To report fish kill, call the FWC hotline at 1-800-636-0511

Right now, much of the 70-mile-long waterway in Brevard County is dark and cloudy. Officials said it's the result of algae blooms, soaking up oxygen in the water.

Algae blooms could possibly lead to another massive fish kill.

It's a mix of many sunny days, and a few cloudy ones, causing the blooms to deplete the oxygen levels.

"The algae didn't get enough light to photosynthesize during the day, and then when they respired at night, they used the available oxygen up," Brevard Natural Resources Director Virginia Barker said. “If we see cloudy days, we expect we could see a similar event.”

Rick Sturtevent is a mainstay on the Indian River Lagoon. If anyone knows what the water is like daily, it's him.

"I'm out there every single day," said Sturtevent, who fishes the river daily. "It's murky. You can't see 6 inches down. I'm hoping they can fix it."

Barker said this current bloom pattern mirrors what happened in 2016, when a massive fish kill began. It's not the blooms that kill fish — it's the lack of oxygen.

Before that happens, local and state agencies are coordinating their response. It includes permits to clean dead fish from the water, as well as a massive undertaking to recruit volunteers to clean shorelines, potentially adding to the pollution.

So now it's a wait-and-see whether this current bloom "blooms itself out" before warmer weather comes calling.

The county relies on reports of area fish kills to determine the extent. If you see one, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish Kill hotline at 1-800-636-0511.