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Mysterious Black Water off Floridas Gulf Coast
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science.
In mid-December last year, a mysterious black water overtook the normally bluish
green waters of Florida Bay. Over the course of the winter, the extent of the
water grew to encompass an area as big as Lake Okeechobee, Florida, before
subsiding over the last few weeks. These images taken by the Sea-viewing
Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS), flying aboard the Orbview-2 satellite, show
the progression of the black water over the last three months. The affected
water sits along the southeastern coast of Florida about fifty miles north of
the Florida Keys.
As of now, scientists do not know why the water appears black in satellite and
aerial images or whether the water is harming the wildlife. They speculate that
it could be due to an exotic algae bloom, an underwater fountain pushing up
sediments from the ocean floor, or possibly chemical and sediment run-off from
the nearby Shark River. Researchers at the Florida Marine Research Institute in
St. Petersburg and the Mote Marine Research Institute in Sarasota are running
tests to determine the chemical make-up of the water.
No big fish kills have been reported in the area. But fishermen say
the catch has been low this winter. In addition, the black water sits just north
of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which is home to one of the
largest coral reef habitats in the United States. Toxic run-off from the
Florida coastline and motor boats in the area have already destroyed many of
Floridas reefs. Scientists are concerned that if the extent of the black water
grows again, it could endanger these reefs.