Toxic algae bloom on Florida's coast ravages marine life

·1 min read

Tampa Bay, Florida — Beaches near Tampa have been littered with dead sea creatures, killed by a massive algae bloom that marine scientists say has been worsened by pollution.

Tyler Capella, who runs a fishing charter business, took CBS News out on Tampa Bay to see what he calls his nightmare. Dead fish are everywhere, killed by a red tide that has turned Tampa Bay toxic.

"This just goes forever," Capella said. "It's devastating. My worst fears have come true. I mean, this is an absolute nightmare."

Capella is documenting the fish kill to pressure elected officials to help. He even covered himself in dead fish.

"Dead fish as far as you could see in every direction, big ones, small ones," he said. "Looked like a bomb had gone off."

 Thousands of dead fish float in the Boca Ciega Bay located near the mouth of Madeira Beach on July 21, 2021, in Madeira Beach, Florida. Red tide, which is formed by a type of bacteria, has killed several tons of marine life in Florida so far this year. / Credit: Octavio Jones / Getty Images
Thousands of dead fish float in the Boca Ciega Bay located near the mouth of Madeira Beach on July 21, 2021, in Madeira Beach, Florida. Red tide, which is formed by a type of bacteria, has killed several tons of marine life in Florida so far this year. / Credit: Octavio Jones / Getty Images

Red tides do naturally occur off the coast of Florida — but scientists say they're now happening more frequently and humans are making them worse.

Warming ocean temperatures due to climate change may lead to more red tides. This spring, more than 200 million gallons of polluted water from an old phosphate plant was dumped in the bay, which could have made this red tide worse.

It now covers about 100 miles of the Florida Gulf Coast and has moved into Tampa Bay.

Michael Crosby, who studies red tides at Sarasota's marine laboratory, said the movement into Tampa Bay is "very unusual."

"It becomes very difficult for it to get back out again because of the tidal sloshing back and forth," Crosby said.

Capella worries he's running out of time. He said he's "100%" worried about his livelihood. "My fear is that this entire region has the potential to become a dead zone," he said.

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