The Captiva Community Panel has been discussing the creation of a 501c3 advocacy committee to give the public information on local quality issues. Panel Members Michael Mullins and Antje Baumgarten have spearheaded the committee to investigate the panel’s options.

Many advocacy groups have been created recently and the panel is considering support of non-profits, such as the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, and a local business round table that has been dubbed Big Water FL. “The goal (for Big Water FL) is to connect everyone and develop a message that we can share,” said Panel member Dave Jensen.

With nutrient pollution in the waters at some of the highest concentrations ever seen, these harmful algal blooms (HAB) have persisted since October 2017. HAB’s have a very distinctive appetite for Nitrogen and Phosphorous. There is another algal bloom that has been reported off of the coast of Captiva known as Trichodesmium, a marine form of cyanobacteria commonly known as Sea Sawdust.

As odd as it may sound, “Saharan Dust that travels through our atmosphere deposits Iron into the Gulf, off of which Trichodesmium feeds,” said Rae Ann Wessel, SCCF Natural Resource Policy Director.

Trichodesmium is being studied as a contributing factor for the continuation of the crisis because of its nitrogen fixation properties, which HAB’s such as cyanobacteria and karenia brevis require for life. As much as red tide and blue green algae consume Nitrogen, they crave Phosphorous just as much, if not more so, leading to the unnatural concentrations recently.

While Tropical Storm Gordon seems to have mixed the coastal waters and transported karenia brevis to the northwest and lowered local concentrations, red tide is still reading around 1 million cells per litre.

Ten thousand cells per litre is where we begin to feel sensations, so we are still way over the tipping point to where we see impact,” explained Wessel. She also reported that three miles off the coast of Captiva, at SCCF’s Buoy site, floating masses of dead fish can still be witnessed.

All of the Dissolved Oxygen on the sea floor at the SCCF Buoy test site had been displaced by Hydrogen Sulfide, a product of the HAB’s, rendering it a hypoxic zone, or Dead Zone. “It’s like it has been gassed,” said Wessel.“If you try to touch anything it disintegrates.”

Many are concerned about a timeline for the HAB, but Wessel stated that nothing is finished as long as there is rainfall, pollution-level nutrient runoff from fertilizer, wastewater systems, and the watershed continues to feed blooms.