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Southwest Florida’s Edison Reef becoming dead zone, researchers say

Empty, barren and filled with dead sea animals.

This is what researchers call a dead zone, and it’s right here in Southwest Florida.

But it wasn’t the case for the Edison Reef last summer.

“When we dove the Edison reef, on Tuesday, we saw nothing,” said Rick Bartleson, a water quality scientist with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

Nothing but a blanket of dead wildlife, according to Florida Gulf Coast Resource Coordinator Bob Wasno.

“Everything was absolutely dead, crabs urchins, clams, the corals on the structure itself,” Wasno said.

*The video below is from 2013 on the Edison Reef.

The dead marine life sinking to the bottom of the Gulf is contributing to what researchers call a dead zone.

“Hypoxic zones are essentially areas that are void of oxygen,” Wasno said.

The dead fish that was up along the shore actually take oxygen from the water.

“Through decomposition, all that bacteria that’s eating up dead fish and cells, it’ sucking the oxygen right out of the water,” Wasno said.

In a recent dive, they found what could be a large dead zone.

“We’ve seen no oxygen up around Captiva and no oxygen up around then also around the southwest side of Sanibel,” Bartleson said.

Researchers say this year’s prolonged red tide bloom may worsen the dead zone.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
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