NewsProtecting Paradise


Treasure Coast leader pushes for Indian River Lagoon to become 'no-discharge zone'

Concern sparked by number of liveaboard boats
Posted at 3:29 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 17:46:38-04

VERO BEACH, Fla. — There is a new effort to crack down on waste from boats in the Indian River Lagoon. The three Treasure Coast county commissions met Tuesday to discuss the issue.

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Even small discharges, like waste from boats, can do damage and lead to toxic algae blooms.

So, there's an effort to prevent discharges, no matter the size.

Malcolm McFarland with Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch and a handful of other scientists recently published a study focused on two toxins in the Indian River Lagoon.

The microcystin toxin is found in blue-green algae, and the saxitoxin, which can paralyze shellfish and is more often found in the northern parts of the lagoon, though scientists aren't exactly sure why.

Malcolm McFarland
Malcolm McFarland with FAU Harbor Branch speaks about the toxins found in the Indian River Lagoon.

"Although they're very different, and found in different places and produced by different organisms, they seem to be driven by these inputs of nitrogen primarily," McFarland said.

These toxins often spike during the wet season when there are freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Peter O'Bryan with Indian River County proposed expanding the concept of the "no-discharge zone."

His concern was over the number of boats outside the city marina in Vero Beach, some of which don't use its pump-out facilities.

Peter O'Bryan, Indian River County Commissioner
Peter O'Bryan discusses his concern about the number of boats outside the city marina in Vero Beach.

"These liveaboard boats are everywhere now, outside the marina limits. So, what are they doing with their waste?" O'Bryan asked.

This summer, the governor signed legislation to have all state aquatic preserves declared "no-discharge zones." The measure also provides money to clear away derelict boats.

"The whole lagoon is not encompassed by aquatic preserves, but a lot of it is, so this is a great first step," O'Bryan said.

Currently, there are three "no-discharge zones" in Florida with two located in the Florida Keys.

O'Bryan would like to see the lagoon added to the list next year.