Reef fish in the Persian Gulf

Tarr, Bradley A SAJ Bradley.A.Tarr at
Mon Aug 12 07:53:41 EDT 2002

In addition to Gregor's reference, I suggest you contact the Research
Institute of the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. Coral reef
data, including fish diversity and abundance, have been collected on a
quarterly basis on nearshore patch reefs and the offshore islands in the
Arabian (Persian) Gulf since 1982. Please contact me directly if you are
interested in obtaining a data base of reef fishes for that area.

Brad Tarr
U.S.Army Corps of Engineers
Planning Division, Environmental Branch
P.O. Box 4970
Jacksonville, FL 32232-0019
(904) 232-3582

 -----Original Message-----
From: Gregor Hodgson [mailto:gregorh at]
Sent: Monday, August 12, 2002 3:38 AM
To: Angus Thompson; Coral-list at
Subject: RE: Reef fish in the Persian Gulf
Subject: Black Water Kills Coral
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2002 09:41:49 -0500
From: "Precht, Bill" <Bprecht at>
To: corallist <Coral-list at>

To All:

This is a follow-up to the numerous Black Water posts on the list from March
2002. It seems as though predictions of coral mortality have followed the
passing of the recent Black Water Event as it did in 1878 for the Dry

- The last quote by Porter (see below) regarding the fact that this has
never happened before is contrary to reports from A.G. Mayer dating back to

However, questions remain?


William F. Precht, P.G.
Ecological Sciences Program Manager
2001 NW 107th Avenue
Miami, FL  33172
bprecht at

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Black water devastates coral in Keys
A new area of black water has formed off Sanibel Island

Sunday, August 11, 2002    Naples Daily News

By CATHY ZOLLO, crzollo at
and JEREMY COX, jgcox at

More than half of the coral on the north side of the Florida Keys was
destroyed in the past 12 months, and researchers who've been monitoring Keys
coral since 1996 say the black water event from last spring is to blame.

"I'm sure that's what caused it," said James Porter, a leading coral expert
who heads the research team. "It's something to do with the water chemistry,
but it's beyond anything we know about."

Porter said his team of researchers measured a 60 percent loss of over one
year, "which is the highest rate of loss we have ever seen anywhere in the
Florida Keys in a single year," he said. "Even Hurricane Georges did not do
this kind of damage."

Five coral species were completely wiped out in areas Porter monitors in the
content Keys, a crowd of patch reefs and mangrove islands just north of the
island chain. He noted the demise of centuries-old boulder corals, and large
numbers of other bottom dwellers such as sea squirts, sea biscuits and

Joining Porter in his assessment of the area's sea life is marine collector
Ken Nedimyer.

"Most of the brain corals in the Northwest Channel are dead," Nedimyer said.
"I could go on. The Middle and upper Keys look good, but the Lower Keys and
Key West were hammered. But we're not supposed to worry because this is a
natural phenomenon."

Officials in the spring characterized the event as naturally occurring and
similar to a 100 years flood.

No assessment is yet in on the area hundreds of square miles in size and
farther north where satellite pictures showed the water pooled for months
beginning in November 2001 and then washed over the Keys.

New concerns

What worries some environmentalists and others along the Southwest Florida
coast is the appearance in recent weeks of another mass of black water that
formed off Sanibel Island near where the Caloosahatchee River - an outlet
for Lake Okeechobee - empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Jim Anderson, a Sanibel pilot, said he at first thought the water was oil.
Others who live along the Caloosahatchee River say they've seen a drop in
water quality there over recent weeks.

"I noticed when waves come on shore, the water is thick and black," said
Mitrah Bakhtian, who's lived along the river for seven years.

Satellite pictures show a cloud of dark water hugging the Florida coast and
concentrating south of Cape Romano, though this water mass isn't as large as
the one in the spring.

"The images are a bit similar to what we saw in the winter black water
event, but they are less dark and appear more brownish and they cover less
(area) and are closer to the coast," said Chuanmin Hu, a researcher at the
University of South Florida's Institute for Marine Remote Sensing. "This may
or may not be the same thing we observed in the winter."

Hu checked the satellite data after hearing reports of black water, but he
said there is no ongoing monitoring and interpreting program in place.

Scott Willis, spokesman for the Florida Marine Research Institute, said
scientists are collecting water samples from the current mass of water and
will be looking at those this week. Fishermen spotted the first event in
January when it had become a mass bigger than Lake Okeechobee occupying the
area between Cape Romano and the Florida Keys. It slowly moved south across
the Keys by April.

Satellite pictures at the time showed the water had trailed along the west
coast of Florida from the Caloosahatchee and intensified when it reached
western Florida Bay off the Shark River just below Marco Island and Naples.

Researchers concluded later that the black water was a complex interaction
among red tide and other algae blooms mixing with river runoff, said Beverly
Roberts of FMRI.

Few in the scientific community would say if they think July's dark water is
a repeat event, and Roberts said it could just as likely be normal river

Fresh water is much darker than sea water and would float along the surface
of the gulf.

"That can extend miles into the gulf," she said.

Water from Lake Okeechobee

Whether or not this black water is a repeat of the spring, it comes as
Florida water officials seek to manage water levels in Lake Okeechobee, an
increasingly complicated task in recent years.

Water managers have three choices when it comes to draining the lake: they
can send it east to the St. Lucie River, west to the Caloosahatchee or south
through the Everglades. Complicating matters is the fact that the lake water
is rich in nutrients and causes problems no matter which way they send it.

The lake's level peaked above 18 feet in October 1999, a level U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers feared would cause the dike surrounding the lake to fail.
In response, water managers flung open the spillways leading into the
Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

The district released about 2 million gallons of lake water per minute into
the Caloosahatchee over roughly a month.

By June 2000, the lake was lowered to 13 feet.

The district and Army Corps were forced to re-examine their water-management
policies for the lake after public outcry arose over algae blooms and fish
kills in the Caloosahatchee.

Today, water managers try to keep the lake between 13 1/2 and 15 1/2 feet to
avoid major releases such as those in 2000, said Karen Estock, head of the
Army Corps South Florida Operations office in Clewiston.

Water management officials also use so-called "pulse releases," 10-day-long
periods in which they keep spillways open. And releases don't happen unless
scientists, local and state politicians and concerned citizen groups give
their blessing.

"That's always our goal- let people know what we're going to do, get some
feedback and them make our decision," Estock said. "It's science and

There have been two recent "pulse releases." One ran from July 15 to July
25. Another began Aug. 1 and will continue until Aug. 10.

In both cases, the decision to let the water out of the lake came after its
level jumped above 14 1/2 feet. Water management officials try to keep
levels lower during the rainy season, Estock said.

The release's intensity reached a peak a week ago, when nearly 3,500 cubic
feet per second of water rushed into the Caloosahatchee through the Moore
Haven lock, where the river meets Lake Okeechobee.

However, the lake's level has increased slightly due to rainfall.

Lake water quality

The amount of fresh water directed down the Caloosahatchee is a problem,
environmentalists and the state agree, and most people also agree it's a
combination of lake releases, farm and urban runoff.

What worries people like David Guest, an attorney for the environmental law
firm Earth Justice, is what's in the water.

Lake Okeechobee is more than just a place to fish. It's also where
agricultural interests around the lake pump excess water to keep farm fields
dry. What comes with the water is loads of nitrogen and, to a lesser degree,
phosphorus, according to the water district's own reports.

Together, they're food for a host of organisms that, though generally
harmless, can choke waterways when they can grow out of control.

Guest said the water backpumped from farms is bad for creatures in the
Caloosahatchee and could just as well be bad for the Gulf.

"When you have algae or maybe the black tide and when that arrives and finds
nutrient-rich water, is it a surprise that it grows out of control?" he

Porter, whose team recently identified a new disease decimating elkhorn
coral in waters up and down the Keys, said the black water is a mystery and
that research and monitoring needs to go on.

"I'm deeply concerned by that event," he said, "as much because I don't know
what it means as I know what it did. I don't think anyone knew how important
this was because it had never happened before."

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