Mysterious algae blooms choking Florida Bay

Miami HeraldMay 4, 2008 

Scientists who monitor Florida Bay and anglers who chase tarpon and bonefish in its maze of shallows fear that algae blooms are returning to the body of water at the tip of Florida, a rerun of the early 1990s, when a string of blooms decimated vast swaths of seagrass beds and sponges.

''The blooms we're seeing now, they're not going away in the winter like they used to,'' said Tad Burke, head of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association. ``These blooms aren't dying. They're moving around with the wind and blowing back up.''

Scientists and managers of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Everglades National Park share the concern and are trying to figure what, if anything, to do. A bloom last year left significant damage, especially to sponges. Mark Butler, a biologist at Old Dominion University in Virginia, said areas monitored by his surveys show a ''complete wipeout'' of 22 of 24 sponge species — including the bay's largest, loggerheads, that can reach the size of tractor tires.

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