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Coral disease plaguing reef tract from Martin County to Florida Keys

'As much as I make a living off the ocean, I owe it to the ocean to push this out in front of people,' fishing boat captain says
Chopper 5 view of dirty water at Jupiter Inlet
Posted at 7:11 AM, Sep 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-23 08:40:35-04

JUPITER, Fla. — Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease is plaguing the reef tract that stretches from Martin County to the Florida Keys.

This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scheduled a news conference to devise a plan to take action and treat the disease.

Jupiter charter fishing boat captain Bill Taylor said he's concerned about the reef and coral in it off of the Palm Beach County coastline.

He's bringing awareness to his concerns, which include the disappearance of sea grass and oysters in the Jupiter Inlet.

Bill Taylor speaks to Mike Trim about water quality near Jupiter Inlet
Jupiter fishing boat captain Bill Taylor speaks to WPTV's Mike Trim about the deteriorating water quality in and around the Jupiter Inlet.

"As much as I make a living off the ocean, I owe it to the ocean to push this out in front of people," Taylor said.

Taylor said he witnesses brown, murky water leaving the inlet weekly.

Chopper 5 captured what Taylor is talking about.

Taylor thinks it's affecting the coral reef and Dr. Brian Lapointe, a Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch scientist, said he's correct.

"More and more land-based runoff of brown, dirty water with high nutrient levels, that is a killer for coral reefs," Lapointe said. "With 1,000 people a day moving to Florida and more wastewater coming into, you know, our watershed and flowing downhill to our coastal zone, we have to realize we can no longer, you know, use conventional septic tanks, for example."

RELATED: Sewage from septic systems could be contributing to Indian River Lagoon pollution

For Taylor, who has 27 years of experience running fishing charters out of the Jupiter Inlet, his concern is about the sea life.

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Florida reef map 2021 data
This map from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows how Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease has impacted the state's coral reefs.

He said he's seen differences in the habits of snook and manatees because there's little to no sea grass in the inlet now.

For years, the sea grass was abundant.

Lapointe said things like less septic tank use by communities could help the situation.