Ian ruins man-made reefs, brings algae bloom to Florida

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Hurricane Ian not solely ravaged southwest Florida on land however was damaging underwater as nicely. It destroyed man-made reefs and introduced alongside pink tide, the dangerous algae blooms that kill fish and birds, in response to marine researchers who returned final week from a six-day cruise organized by the Florida Institute of Oceanography.

Researchers who used the cruise to check marine life within the Gulf of Mexico following the hurricane say it left in its wake pink tide and destroyed synthetic reefs from as far-off as 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the coast of southwest Florida.

“The one-time vibrant reefs at the moment are underwater catastrophe websites themselves,” stated Calli Johnson, security dive officer for the analysis cruise. “The place there was once a whole ecosystem, there at the moment are solely fish that have been capable of return after swimming away.”

Earlier than the Class 4 storm made landfall a month in the past, southwest Florida had a status for being among the finest saltwater fishing locations within the U.S. Saltwater and freshwater fishing in Florida has an financial influence of round $13.8 billion, in response to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fee.

“Time will inform how this impacts our larger economic system, as a result of adjustments within the fishing business and tourism will come from adjustments in our underwater world,” Johnson stated.

The marine researchers on the cruise discovered excessive counts of the naturally-occurring algae that causes pink tide offshore Punta Gorda, Boca Grande and southwest of Sanibel Island. It is going to be a number of weeks earlier than researchers can analyze water samples that have been collected to find out the menace to sea life off the Florida coast.

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The pink tide outbreak is also threatening manatees off Sarasota and Charlotte counties that depend on seagrass for meals, in response to the Ocean Conservancy.

“Florida is at a crossroads, with a report variety of manatees dying,” stated J.P. Brooker, director of Florida conservation for the Ocean Conservancy. “We should preserve this challenge on the forefront, so leaders statewide will put money into options to enhance water high quality—defending pure habitats to save lots of our beloved manatees.”

By mid-October, there have been 719 manatee deaths recorded by Florida wildlife officers. There have been 982 manatee deaths final 12 months.