Never before in modern times have we seen such a large number of marine life wash up onto the shore.
This week, the Institute of Environment at Florida International University has joined the group of scientists who are investigating the recent dead-fish sightings in Miami-Dade County’s Biscayne Bay. Residents have reported thousands of dead fish washing up onto the shore, leaving scientists concerned about the larger picture – the welfare of marine life within the Miami region.
Miami Waterkeeper, an advocacy group, reported a high level of bacteria in the area as a direct factor triggering the deaths, a situation Professor Piero Gaediniali reports as a state of ‘emergency’. He associates the dangerous bacteria with a combination of toxic compounds coming from storm drain, fertilizer runoff, leaky septic tanks in addition to plastic – all of which have caused a major decrease in the water quality – ultimately killing thousands of fish. This unprecedented outcome has caused major concerns amongst scientists and residents alike, all of whom were complaining about the stench coming from the waters and the large volumes of marine life struggling to survive; a figure which is now in the thousands. Videos have since been released revealing squadrons of rays aggregating at the bottom of biscayne bay, gasping for air due to low dissolved oxygen levels.
Concerns are cultivated further as the death tolls continue, but display a drift from the North shores – the epicentre of the outbreak – to the middle of the bay.
Scientists are currently analysing the activity of the animals and the water levels, deploying autonomous surface vehicles to test the temperature, dissolved oxygen levels and chlorophylls. Preliminary findings reveal a spike in water temperature in the bay. However, comparing the temperature to last year, there seems to be no real major deviation from the norm.
This then poses the question: what exactly promoted the lack of oxygen that is causing the sudden fish kill event?
As research is underway to answer all of these questions – it seems like there really is a race against time to detect the source of the problem, before it’s too late.