Florida Governor Rick Scott has officially declared a state of emergency in Florida in response to deadly “red tide” algae blooms along the coast. While red tides aren’t new to Florida, this year’s bloom is especially severe.
• Researchers believe the natural (but dangerous) phenomenon may be caused by a constellation of factors: loss of wetlands, agricultural runoff, loss of coastal zones, high temperatures, and low rain. It is believed that these conditions create the perfect breeding ground for toxic red algae.
• Millions of marine animals have washed up dead on beaches, while human residents and their pets are experiencing nausea, vomiting, headaches, and breathing difficulties. This occurs because dinoflagellates has the ability to aerosolized, or become airborne, traveling inward and away from the coast.
• Gov. Scott included a total of seven counties in the state of emergency, including Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Collier, Lee, and Charlotte have been struggling with the bloom for some time, and have been the most heavily affected. The others aren’t as severely impacted, but are still experiencing harmful side effects.
• Red tides aren’t new to Florida; in fact, researchers claim they happen on a much less impactful scale nearly every year. The first known case is believed to have occurred in the 1840s, although few details are known about the level or nature of blooms at the time. Heightened temperatures in Florida over the past decade, and increasingly lower rainfall amounts likely play a role.
• Red tide algae blooms have the power to make humans sick, kill pets who swim in the water, and decimate marine life, but they are also significantly disruptive to local tourism and fishing industries. Until the red tide clears, all beaches within these zones are off-limits. Fishing, including deep sea fishing, has also been closed to protect visitors and locals from harm.
• Because red tide is a natural phenomenon, it is very difficult for researchers to determine how and when to approach the issue. Many of the treatments used to kill off algae directly feed or harm other creatures, upsetting the sensitive balance in Florida’s waters.
• Gov. Scott did also make $100,000 in additional funding available to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in an effort to help them respond to, and manage, marine zone problems. He is also beefing up monitoring and research investigations as well as making additional biologists and scientists available to local natural resources organizations.
• If you live in Florida, especially within one of the affected zones, you can do your part and aid in the recovery in specific ways. If you identify a fish kill (a large number of fish dead on a beach), report it at 800-636-0511 or submit a report online. You can also become a Red Tide Monitoring Volunteer, a role responsible for collecting samples from local beaches.