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Red Tide Impacting Sea Floor, Scuba Diving Community

You’ve seen the effects of red tide from above and at the surface level. But what about in the water?

“It kind of looks like pollen,” Mark Garcy said, who is the owner of Florida Excursions, referring to the surface of the water.

When Garcy has progressed to the lower parts of the water, he noticed that the substance continues to grow.

“When you’re diving it looks like a thermocline,” Garcy said, whose company has significantly cut back on diving tours. Garcy cites a lack of business for the cut back on hours because of the environmental problems SWFL has been facing.

SWFL is the midst of a red tide water crisis. Plants that live in freshwater and seawater have grown out of control.

Florida’s Gulf Coast has these red tide blooms nearly every summer, caused by the microscopic algae. Yet this time is different.

These colonies of algae have a toxic effect on animals that depend on the water.

People who are not adequately protected when in contact with red tide will have side effects, sometimes fatal.

On his most recent diving trip, Garcy saw half the fish he saw while taking video last month diving.

“A lot of the spots since then that we are diving, the marine life has disappeared,” Garcy said.

The algae blooms are also posing a threat to divers themselves.

“There is about a five-foot area of haze that you can’t see through,” Garcy said. “When you have limited visibility that always becomes a safety risk at that point, losing divers.”

HelloSWL talked to Mote Marine Laboratory to learn more about red tide in our oceans.

“We know that red tide initiates offshore at the ocean bottom,” Dr. Tracy Fanara said, “and it is brought to the surface by up blowing and currents,”

Dr. Fanara is a staff scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory, which is an independent, nonprofit marine research institution with a concentration on conservation and sustainable use of oceans.

“The bloom can be anywhere throughout the water column,” Dr. Fanara said.

Research from the nonprofit marine institution supports that the algae blooms affect organisms at all depths.

However, it notes that there is no proven method to thoroughly remove red tide algae without potentially harming the Gulf Coast ecosystem.

“It hasn’t been this bad in quite a long time,” Mark Garcy said.

Reporting by Brittany Muller