There is no dedicated program to sample water quality and phytoplankton in the Gulf of Mexico. Typically, monthly samples in estuaries and other water bodies affected by runoff are collected and trends are determined. But the Gulf of Mexico has yet to be evaluated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to determine whether it meets water quality criteria, which are set to assure fish and sea life can survive and people can swim without getting sick. The main reason coastal waters have not been evaluated is because there is no data available.
In 2018, during a terrible summer of red tide, fish kills and environmental disaster, the Vince family from Captiva wanted to support additional information for Captiva. With the funding support of Goldman Sachs Gives and the Vince family, SCCF Marine Laboratory is using its Research Vessel NORMA CAMPBELL, equipment and manpower to look at water quality and phytoplankton around Captiva.
And to help bring this data to everyone, the Marine Lab has a webpage which allows anyone to access the data from a map. Phytoplankton results will be added soon. View webpage.
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.