SCCF Marine Lab providing data on water
Did you know that there is very little information collected regarding water quality and phytoplankton growing in the Gulf of Mexico? In fact, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has yet to evaluate any coastal waters around Florida to see if they meet water quality criteria, which are set to assure fish and sea life can survive and people can swim without getting sick. The main reason they have not looked at coastal waters yet is because there is no data available to evaluate their condition.
As with most things, collecting the needed data takes funding, especially when it requires a big boat, expensive equipment, and lots of manpower for sampling, lab work and data analysis to make the effort possible. Luckily, the Vince family from Captiva wanted to support additional information for Captiva related to red tide events. With funding support from the family and Goldman Sachs Gives, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Laboratory is using its boat, equipment and manpower to look at water quality and phytoplankton around Captiva.
With the red tide events recently and fish kills, and large-scale die-offs of marine mammals, seabirds and most marine life, there is a real need to know what microscopic organisms are living in the coastal waters and what water quality components influence them.
Entities involved in the politics of local issues such as Captiva’s consideration of septic-to-sewer conversion can use the science to come to a better informed conclusion. The Marine Lab has worked with the Captiva Community Panel to enlighten it to the current conditions of waters lapping up on island real estate investments.
And the data SCCF staff has collected over the past year indicates there is reason for concern. To date, 68 percent of water samples at nine sites close to the waters of Captiva have failed current state water quality criteria for nitrogen or phosphorus or chlorophyll a (algae) or for multiple criteria. This was not expected or known before the SCCF’s effort began. The SCCF can now provide the Florida DEP with data which it can use to evaluate the Gulf around Captiva for possible inclusion in the Impaired Waters List. Inclusion in the list helps focus more effort in improving local water quality.
To help bring the data to everyone, the Marine Lab recently launched a link on its Website at “http://www.sccf.org/our-work/marine-laboratory”>www.sccf.org/our-work/marine-laboratory that allows visitors to access the data from the map. So far the interactive map contains only water quality data. The SCCF will include phytoplankton data in the near future, as those samples are still being evaluated with microscopy work.
The SCCF Marine Lab tries to assure the data it collects is pertinent and is needed and is used. This is one example of how it does that.
For more information, visit www.sccf.org/our-work/marine-laboratory.