Marine Lab Providing Critical Water Quality Data From Near-Shore Captiva

22 Apr 2020

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 (DEP) 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 haven’t 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 the funding support of Goldman Sachs Gives and the Vince family, SCCF Marine Laboratory is using its big 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. 

The folks involved in the politics of local issues such as Captiva’s consideration of septic to sewer conversion can use this science to come to a better informed conclusion. The Marine Lab has worked with Captiva Community Panel to enlighten them to the current conditions of waters lapping up on their real estate investments.

And the data we have collected over the past year indicates there is reason for concern. To date, 68% of water samples at 9 sites snuggled up 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 our effort began. We can now provide Florida DEP with data which they can use to evaluate the Gulf of Mexico around Captiva for possible inclusion in the Impaired Waters List. Inclusion in this list helps focus more effort in improving local water quality.

And to help bring this data to everyone, the Marine Lab has now launched a website which allows anyone to access the data from a map,  So far the interactive map contains only water quality data. We will include phytoplankton data in the near future as those samples are still being evaluated with tedious microscopy work. 

SCCF Marine Laboratory tries to assure the data we collect is pertinent and is needed and is used. This is one example of how we do that.

To learn more about our Marine Lab's work click here.