FIU Researchers Find Microplastics in Biscayne Bay & Florida Bay

Microplastic poses a growing concern in oceans and other aquatic habitat. (Image by 5Gyres, courtesy of Oregon State University)
Microplastic poses a growing concern in oceans and other aquatic habitat. (Image by 5Gyres, courtesy of Oregon State University)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describes microplastics as small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long. Microplastics can takes several forms:

  • primary microplastics (a/k/a microbeads) that are used in the manufacture of plastic products or as abrasives in other products,
  • secondary microplastics which come from plastic trash breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces; and
  • microfibers – synthetic filaments used to make our polyester, nylon, spandex & other types of fabrics.

Whatever their form and whatever their source, microplastics pose environmental problems for wildlife and humans – and now high levels of a specific type of microplastic has been found in our Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay.

University of Florida researchers investigating algae in southern Biscayne Bay and northeast Florida Bay over the last two years made an unexpected discovery halfway through their work: high levels of tiny shards of blue-tinted microplastics.

The microplastics appeared in dense amounts, like an algae mat, that the researchers fear could be consumed by wildlife.

According to WLRN’s Jenny Staletovich, researchers were studying the affects of freshwater on the micro plankton in north Florida Bay when they found the microplastics “in amounts of 10,000 to 20,000 particles per liter”.

A material science professor who looked at the plastics identified them as polystyrene, and coming from a specific kind. Polystyrene is used to make styrofoam cups and food containers. “It’s hard to pinpoint what the plastic was, because what we’re seeing is fragments.

We’re not seeing the original plastic material. But it was very consistent,” he said. “There was one type of plastic. It wasn’t like multiple different kinds.”

With the findings, [Edward Phlips, a UF fisheries professor and lead author of the study published in Scientific Reports last month], said it might be time to add plastics monitoring and set limits.

Read the full article here: Researchers Find Potential New Threat To Biscayne And Florida Bays: Microplastics

September 15: Biscayne Bay Task Force Report & Recommendations

Join Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins (District 5) and Irela Bague, Chair of the Biscayne Bay Task Force, as they discuss the Biscayne Bay Task Force Report & Recommendations, release in June 2020. The report and recommendations proved to be horrifyingly prescient in light of the Biscayne Bay fish kill last month.

Saving Biscayne Bay – Afterword

Silver Bluffs and Biscayne Bay

Earlier this evening, I watched Louise Aguirre’s special “Saving Biscayne Bay” on WPLG Local 10; and participated in the Facebook Live town hall with FIU Institute of Environment researchers:

  • Dr. Tiffany Troxler, Associate Director of Science, Sea Level Solutions Center & Member of the Biscayne Bay Task Force
  • Dr. Thomas Frankovich, Research Assistant Professor, Southeast Environmental Research Center
  • Dr. Todd Crowl, Executive Director, Institute of Environment
  • Dr. James Fortrum, Director of Oceans & Coastlines Division
  • Dr. Piero Gardinali, Director of the Freshwater Resources Division, Southeast Environmental Research Center
  • Dr. Ligia Collado-Vides, Senior Lecturer, Associate Chair, Department of Biological Sciences

It was an amazing an informative hour and a half, and I highly recommend for everyone to watch for themselves.

While tonight’s event was prompted by the fish kill in Biscayne Bay last month, the underlying causes have been a matter of great concern for a long, long, long time.

“Saving Biscayne Bay” focused on the immediate crisis of the fish kill and some of its causes, including sewage leaks/spills and pollution. Images of piles of plastic & other pollution in Little River & San Souci canals was particularly disturbing.

The town hall went into those causes a bit deeper with experts from FIU’s Institute of Environment taking audience questions.

In response to overwhelming audience requests, the latter part of the town hall including recommendations for what we, as ordinary citizens, can do to help save our Biscayne Bay. Suggestions included reduction/elimination of fertilizers (especially from May through September) and the use of native landscaping; don’t through grass clipping, palm fronds or other yard debris into the waterways, reporting clogged storm drains, and education.


Saving Biscayne Bay

Tonight at 8:00 p.m., ABC Local 10 Miami will be airing a special half-hour broadcast: “Saving Biscayne Bay”.

Local 10 environmental advocate Louis Aguirre investigates the issues Biscayne Bay is now facing, how we got to this point, and how we as a community can change the Bay’s future.

Immediately following @WPLGLocal10’s special on Saving Biscayne Bay (9/2 @ 8 p.m.), we will host a town hall on Facebook Live on what is happening in the Bay.

@LOUISAGUIRRE will take your questions and our @FIU researchers will provide answers LIVE


Today at 4:00 pm: Biscayne Bay Fish Kill Update Live-Streamed

Florida State Senator Jason Pizzo and State Representative Michael Grieco will be hosting a streaming call this afternoon, Friday, August 14th, at 4:00 PM Eastern to discuss the fish kill happening in Biscayne Bay. According to Senator Pizzo’s announcement, they will be joined by:

The call will be viewable by the public on Facebook Live and Twitter. Follow Senator Pizzo on Facebook & Twitter, and Representative Grieco on Facebook & Twitter to watch the conference call live. You can email your questions in advance to Senator Pizzo at

BISCAYNE BAY FISH KILL (please share):Friday, August 14th, at 4pm EST, Representative Michael Grieco and I will be…

Posted by Senator Jason Pizzo on Thursday, August 13, 2020

Pelican Harbor Seabird Station Rescues Rays Desperate for Oxygen in Biscayne Bay

Officials and wildlife organizations from all over the State of Florida are investigating the spreading fish kill in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. The growing environmental emergency was first discovered on Monday by the Dolphins and Rainbows swim club near Morningside Park in the Tuttle Basin.

As of Wednesday, hundreds of rays were gathered in the shallow shore waters behind Pelican Harbor Seabird Station looking for oxygen. Scientists and volunteers from Pelican Harbor, Frost Museum of Science, Miami-Dade Sea Grant, DERM, and FIU quickly coordinated to provide life-saving aid the the desperate rays and fish crowding into the cove.

Posted by Pelican Harbor Seabird Station on Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Pelican Harbor ran aerated water from their rescue facility while “Andy from Frost Science” brought three aeration tanks to help get oxygen to the rays and other marine wildlife.

Posted by Pelican Harbor Seabird Station on Wednesday, August 12, 2020

By the end of the day Wednesday, the heroic efforts of all involve paid off. Pelican Harbor reported that all of the rays and 96% of the fish in their cove had survived low tide.

Update: 96% of the fish all survived, including all of the rays! The video was made at low tide at 11am when dissolved…

Posted by Pelican Harbor Seabird Station on Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Pelican Harbor will continue to monitor the area, and are expecting a likely repeat during low tide in coming days.

Fish Kill in Biscayne Bay

Thousands of dead fish have been spotted floating in different locations in Biscayne Bay since Monday as water temperatures reached about 90 degrees and dissolved oxygen dropped to very low levels. They’ve been documented in photos from Miami Waterkeeper and concerned residents.

Miami Herald
Dead fish in Biscayne Bay near Morningside on Monday. Photo courtesy: Kathryn Mikesell

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating after several City of Miami residents reported the dead fish in the bay near Morningside Park on Monday. Today Miami Dade County’s Department of Environmental and Resources Management (DERM) is reporting dead fish surfacing near the Julia Tuttle and Venetian Causeways.

In an email, DERM spokeswoman Tere Florin said the staff measured water temperatures near 90 degrees along with extremely low oxygen levels at about 3 feet deep.

“While we cannot be absolutely certain at this time, it appears that very high temperatures and very low dissolved oxygen levels in the shallow waters where the dead fish were observed by DERM staff earlier are likely contributing to or driving the situation,” she wrote.


More Information:

City of Miami Passes Fertilizer Ordinance

The Miami City Commission has approved an ordinance to limit the type, amount and location of fertilizer use within city limits.

The ordinance aims to combat the negative secondary and cumulative effects of excess nutrients in Biscayne Bay and water bodies within the city, which are caused by fertilizer runoff. The proposed legislation is based on independent studies and with research from 85 municipalities and 32 counties that have passed fertilizer ordinances since 2007.

The Ordinance sets guidelines for the amount of fertilizer allowed, both commercial and non-commercial, in the City of Miami. It mandates that fertilizer can only be applied to actively growing turf. It also designates fertilizer-free zones 15 feet from bodies of water.Another aspect of the ordinance focuses on the regulation of nitrogen-releasing fertilizer in most forms, as well as even more rigorous phosphorus regulations.

City of Miami

The ordinance, co-sponsored by Ken Russell from District 2, Manolo Reyes in District 4, and Mayor Francis Suarez, has received strong support from the Sierra Club Florida, Ocean Conservancy, Miami Waterkeeper.

Health of Biscayne Bay Is ‘At A Tipping Point’

On the heels of NOAA’s study published earlier this week, WLRN is reporting on the findings of a Grand Jury convened last year to look at the condition of Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Short version: the health of Biscayne Bay is “at a tipping point”.

Biscayne Bay sits as the crown jewel of our environment. Biscayne Bay is an estuary where freshwater from the mainland mixes with saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean. It is a source of numerous recreational and commercial activities, including boating, fishing, cruising, diving, and sightseeing. Clearly, the health and cleanliness of Biscayne Bay is vital to our community and to our economy.

View of Biscayne Bay from Alice Wainwright Park

The report points to three primary causes of our rapidly deteriorating water quality in Biscayne Bay – sewage contamination, excess nutrients, and pollution – and discusses the sources of each in depth. Their conclusion:

It is obvious that the health of our precious Biscayne Bay and our underground drinking water is at a state of precarious balance, brought forth by the many forces which have been discussed herein, most of which are man-made. The entire balance is further threatened by rising sea levels.

Celebrate Earth Day with a SCUBA Cleanup

Here is another great event for Earth Day!

Join South Beach Dive and Surf Center and Debris Free Oceans this Earth Day for a reef cleanup scuba diving trip in the crystal blue waters of Key Largo!

On April 22nd, we will be teaming up with our partner Rainbow Reef Dive Center and bringing divers to an area outside of the protected John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in need of cleaning up. Participants will enjoy two drift dives while removing debris from the reef.

All you need is your open-water diver certification, around 20 logged dives (to be sure that you are experienced enough to multitask underwater) and a passion for protecting our reefs that are crucial to the survival of thousands of marine species.


This specific volunteer-oriented trip costs $20 less than our usual Key Largo diving excursions, and participants will receive half-off of gear rentals! Book online through the SBD trip calendar and save an additional 5% on your reservation! Or feel free to call us at 305-531-6110 to book.


Participants are asked to come to South Beach Divers (850 Washington Ave) at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning for a safe-handling workshop, where you will learn the ins and out of being a successful and safe marine steward. We will then gear up, fill out paperwork and head to Key Largo. We will stop for food on our way down so you can either pack a lunch or bring money for Subway or Pollo Tropical.

South Beach Divers provides free transportation to and from Key Largo, or you can choose to drive yourself. After the dives, different groups and sponsors will be tabling including Debris Free Oceans and Stream2Sea. We will calculate the total amount of debris removed and record data to submit to scientific research, and then head to Sharkey’s Pub and Grill for food, drinks and prizes!


As of now, one South Beach Divers vehicles will be staying in Key Largo for the after party and heading back around 7. Please indicate in your reservation if you would like to drive yourself or with us. If you choose to dive with us, please indicate in the comments of your reservation if you would like to stay later or head back to Miami immediately after the dive.


If you have any questions or concerns, shoot us an email at or give us a call at 305-531-6110.


Hoping to dive with you this Earth Day and protect our oceans!

Earth Day SCUBA Cleanup (photo credit: John Nussbaum)