The Oceana Latitude faced rougher seas today as it reached The Florida Middle Grounds off the West Florida Shelf in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, roughly 100 miles from shore. This is another area that was apparently spared the impacts of oil drilling, at least this time.
Oceana chose this location for its next diving operation because it’s a very important and popular fishing area sitting amongst a complex and vulnerable seafloor habitat, including deep sea corals. Although it’s a popular fishing area, there is little information about the seafloor itself, due to its distance from shore and depth from the surface. Our first dive site was nearly 100 feet deep and provided a great opportunity to document large hogfish and angel fish as well as sponges and sea fans.
Later in the day, Oceana’s divers witnessed several smaller species, including jellyfish, blue dartfish, blenny and goby, approximately five miles away from the first site. Blenny are small tubular fish that have fringe on their heads and hide in the crevices of reefs. The divers also saw snapper, which is a commercially valuable species and popular recreational angling target. This is probably the first time that anyone has ever dived in this particular area.