In Tampa Bay, boat propellers have killed seagrass. A new mapping project may help.
Scientists at two universities are using artificial intelligence to map boat damage in the bay. They’ve already uncovered thousands of propeller scars.
ON TAMPA BAY — Quenton Tuckett hopes he doesn’t find them. But he knows they’re here.
His boat is a few hundred feet from the enchanting mangrove islands of Cockroach Bay, on the southeast shoreline of Tampa Bay near Ruskin. On this cool Monday morning, it’s clear how Cockroach Bay earned its name: A baby horseshoe crab, which closely resembles its insect cousin, scurries across the bottom of the bay. The day is hovering around 70 degrees, and the shallow water is clear with a slight green tint.
Tuckett kills the engine. And then, suddenly, he finds what he feared.
He spots them one by one: Barren lines etched into the seafloor. Moonscapes stretching for hundreds of feet, void of life-sustaining seagrass. The irrefutable damage left by humans.
"It’s estimated that Florida needs over $18 billion dollars statewide to complete all the wastewater infrastructure improvements necessary to protect public and environmental health," Haydocy explained.
Haydocy said until the state sees that money at a federal level, Vibrio cases will continue to occur. Vibrio is rare flesh-eating bacteria that typically infects someone with an open wound in warm brackish sea water.