Scientists say a red tide bloom this summer has choked off oxygen and killed undersea life in a large region of the Gulf of Mexico bottom about ten miles offshore.
The area between northern Pinellas and Pasco counties covers some of the spots where divers previously reported a "dead zone" void of sea life.
The state's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg reports that the area of no or low oxygen could potentially affect more than 2,200 square miles between Hernando County and Sarasota County.
Red tide is formed when a microscopic algae reproduces at an explosive rate, forming a bloom. The algae emits a neurotoxin that can paralyze or make breathing difficult for fish, manatees, or even humans that inhale or ingest it.
Scientists theorize that the red tide bloom got trapped beneath warmer waters, triggering a biological chain reaction that knocked out once-teeming reefs.
From Sarasota County to Pinellas County, the red tide has killed bottom-dwelling marine organisms as well as 63 sea turtles since June first.