Florida's Seawater Temperatures Soar: Record-Breaking Heat Threatens Marine Life and Fisheries



Hotter than hot tub: Florida seawater surpasses 37.8°C

In recent days, seawater temperatures off the coast of Florida have exceeded hot tub temperatures, recording 37.8 °C (100 °F). Temperature readings of this nature were recorded by a buoy in Manatee Bay on Sunday and Monday, with other buoys in the vicinity also nearly reaching the mark. These are some of the highest sea surface temperatures ever recorded, with an unofficial record high of 37.6 °C (99.7 °F) in Kuwait Bay in 2020.

Impact on ocean ecosystem and marine life

Rising water temperatures pose a significant threat to marine life and marine ecosystems, especially coral reefs. In the Florida Keys, which is home to myriad algae and tiny organisms, scientists have observed alarming signs of bleaching and even death in some of the most resilient reefs.

Bleaching events, which can eventually lead to the death of corals, occur when algae living in corals are exposed to extreme water temperatures, usually above 35°C. This process leaves corals pale and weak, depriving them of their vibrant color. "The corals are turning yellow, it looks like the color is going away," said Katie Lesnesky, research and monitoring coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "And some people are downright white. And we've got more to come."

Early onset of coral bleaching

Although peak bleaching usually occurs in late August or September, experts report that this year it is happening much earlier than anticipated due to increased water temperatures. NOAA has subsequently raised its coral bleaching alert system in the Keys to Alert Level 2, indicating the highest level of heat stress.

Impact on humans: Fishing industry and food supply

Heatwave isn't just an environmental issue; It is also a humanitarian. Warmer seawater temperatures could significantly affect fishermen and others whose livelihoods depend on the ocean, with potential impacts on the human food supply. The captain of a fishing boat in Key Largo told the Guardian his catch has been "slower and slower" over the past five summers.

According to the US government agency, surface temperatures globally set records for the months of April, May and June. As temperatures in Manatee Bay, Murray Key and Johnson Key have eased slightly since their peak on Monday, they remain in the high 80s, still posing a threat to marine and human life.


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