In Florida, our environment is our biggest asset. Considered one of the
most naturally beautiful states in the nation, people are drawn here for
a multitude of reasons including our world-class beaches, recreational
fishing, year-round boating and, some might add, the ability to have a fresh grouper sandwich.
Now a 150-mile-long toxic bloom of Florida red tide, (Karenia brevis),
is killing marine life, tainting shellfish, causing skin and respiratory illnesses,
fouling the beaches and air, and driving away tourists. This is the worst red tide
since 2006 and it could plague our coastline for many more months to come.
Florida red tide is a phenomenon documented from as far back as the
1700s that has been seen with increasing frequency over the past several
decades. It usually originates 20 to 40 miles offshore in the Gulf but wind
and tides can carry it into coastal areas, bays and estuaries where its growth
can be accelerated by man-made nutrients such as fertilizers.
Governor Rick Scott recently declared a state of emergency, allocating
$1.5 million in assistance to Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee,
Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official tourism marketing arm, is receiving $500,000 to help communities attract visitors. The aid also includes $900,000 for Lee County’s water clean-up and $100,000 for the Mote Marine Laboratory to assist with wildlife rescue and recovery efforts.
Mote, an independent, not-for-profit research institution based on City
Island, Sarasota, has studied Florida’s red tide algae for decades.
In addition to extensive monitoring and detection efforts, their scientists are
working on mitigation strategies such as a patented process of ozonation that
destroys red tide algae and their toxins in small areas of water such as canals
and small embayments.
They are also studying the use of environmentally friendly natural combatants such as parasitic algae and compounds from certain seaweeds known to kill red tide in the lab.
There are ways to help…
To report fish kills, contact the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511
or submit a report online myfwc.com/fishkill
Download Mote’s CSIC (Citizen Science Information Collaboration)
smartphone app motecsic.org to report respiratory irritation, discolored
water or dead fish – all potential indications of Florida red tide.
If you are able to collect monthly water samples in your area for the FWC,
sign up to become a red tide monitoring program volunteer by filling out a
form at volgistics.com/ex/portal.dll/ap?AP=1572867266
Finally, avoid the use of nitrogen- and phosphorous-rich fertilizer during
Florida’s rainy season, June 1- September 30.
Right now, it seems like we are facing enormous environmental
challenges, some manmade, some not, but scientific research to solve these
problems can lead to amazing new discoveries, advanced technologies and
unforeseen insights which will benefit us all.
See you in October!
Terri Bryce Reeves, Editor
“My favorite poem is the one that starts ‘Thirty days hath September’
because it actually tells you something.”
~ Groucho Marx
Be careful in what you do and what you eat.
To be safe, make sure
you and your pet
avoid affected beaches and
waters. Do not let your pet
play with or eat the dead
fish which may contain harmful bacteria.
You may eat store-bought and restaurant served
shellfish during a bloom because they
are monitored by the government for safety,
according to the FWC. Commercially available
shellfish are often not harvested
locally, but if they are, testing is done prior
To avoid neurotoxic shellfish poisoning
from contaminated shellfish, do not eat
recreationally harvested bivalve mollusks
such as clams, oysters and mussels during
any closure of a shellfish harvesting area.
To determine whether or not harvesting
of shellfish is permitted in an area, visit
the Florida Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services, Division of Aquaculture
website. Illegally harvested and unregulated
shellfish are particularly dangerous and
should never be consumed.
Edible parts of crabs, shrimp and lobster
are not affected and may be eaten with the
exception of the tomalley (the soft, green
goo). During scallop season, locally harvested
scallops from open harvesting areas are safe
as long as only the muscle is consumed.
Local finfish are safe as long as they are
filleted. Never eat dead or distressed animals
in a red tide area.
Remember, the toxins cannot be seen or
tasted and red tide only turns water red or
brown at high concentrations.