Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Perspectives on The Health of Tigertail Lagoon

Guest Commentary

Submitted Photos | Unidentified group wading from Tigertail Beach in the direction of the Gulf-facing beach.


On Thursday, November 19, I addressed the City’s Waterways Advisory Committee, per their invitation, regarding the current state of Tigertail lagoon.  

My personal motivation for writing and speaking to these issues is a concern for the health of the lagoon and potential consequences to human health.  

Photo 1 shows a group of visitors wading across Tigertail lagoon to the beach. Wading with pre-existing cuts and abrasions is a potential health risk in bacteria-laden waters. 

On Wednesday, November 18th, Adam Dinuovo, an ornithologist for Audubon Florida, addressed the Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee regarding Black Skimmer chicks that died on Marco during the summer nesting season.  

According to Dinuovo, the chicks died from ‘Septic Arthritis,’ which is a condition arising from bacterial infections. Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) had some of those dead birds analyzed to identify bacterial species, but as yet have failed to publicly disclose any results. 

There is just one regular water testing program involving lagoon water. Mandated by the State, this test is for a single bacterial species. I believe more extensive testing program is warranted, but lacking a mandate and budget, no agency is likely going to advocate for such a program. 

Latest Manatee and calf stranded in Tigertail lagoon on November 19th at low tide. In the last two months, we’ve had 12 manatees stranded due to low tide.

It is important to acknowledge that Tigertail lagoon supports multiple interests, with different priorities. Hideaway Beach Association (HBA) the property immediately bordering the lagoon’s eastern shore, for many years enjoyed recreational opportunities for kayaking and paddle boarding on the lagoon. However, HBA also periodically renourish their beach and thereby introduced another source of sand into the lagoon. The “Critical Wildlife Area,” on the sand spit of Sand Dollar Island, is recognized as such for the habitat it provides for threatened and endangered birdlife, while the waters of the lagoon occasionally feature visiting Manatees.  

Unfortunately, Manatees in search of tasty seagrasses in the southern reaches of the lagoon can find themselves stranded in shallow sections as the tides change, (Photo 2), in locations as shown on the zonal map (Photo 3)Finally, Tigertail Beach is a County-run facility, providing access to beach recreation and a source of revenue to the County.



The trail by which we arrived here is long and tortuous. Multiple government agencies each fill different roles. Among the complicating factors are: overlapping responsibilities, different jurisdictional areas (city, county, state or federal), differing funding mechanisms and restrictions on their activities, all play their parts. Photo 4 shows the best understanding of organizational stances.  

For example, the Manager of Collier County Coastal Zone Management responded to the concerns of the South Seas Home Owner’s Association Chair, stating that the issues “do not fall under the County’s responsibility… …the County has no funding to renourish Tigertail Beach” and “the State prefers to leave Tigertail lagoon in its natural state. 

I was delighted to find Dr. Mohamed Dabees, a marine engineer with Humiston & Moore Engineering (H&M) in the WAC audience, invited by Tim Pinter, Director of Marco’s Public Works. Dr. Dabees is the engineer who oversaw a survey of the lagoon, underwritten by the HBA. Mr. Pinter reported that Hideaway Beach is working with H&M to come up with a ‘Management Plan’ for the area. 

In his closing comments, Dr. Dabees identified Tigertail as a ‘declining system,’ and if nothing happens to change the current trends, it seems likely the lagoon will close off and there will be no water flushing, potentially resulting in a stagnant, toxic pond. 

My hope is that the current conversations will encourage public engagement. Today, Tigertail lagoon serves many purposes: a wildlife haven, attracting ornithologists from many places, a desirable recreational facility for all visitors and beach access in an area where soaring populations are increasing access pressures. Please speak up, for without public engagement the status quo will persist and that Tigertail lagoon will continue to diminish in value.

Current best understanding of stance of each agency with some decision-making responsibility for Tigertail lagoon and its environs.


2 responses to “Perspectives on The Health of Tigertail Lagoon”

  1. Craig Jensen says:

    Thank you for your article. It was very well written.

    I believe the county has let this go for too long without doing anything. The water quality is horrible and must be fixed before spending our (taxpayers) money on any “amenities” that may or may not be needed.

    The county must develop a plan and get buy in from communities before doing anything. #TigertailBeach has become #Tigertailmudhole and will not get better without effort. We must restore the water health.

  2. Andre Figueroa says:

    I agree with Mr Jensen. Tigertail has become a health hazard and should be dealt with right away! It’s only a matter of time before somebody gets seriously ill from being exposed to that water by waking though it to get to the beach. Need to have more water flow into it and build a walking bridge over the lagoon.

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