Florida Declares State of Emergency Over Red Tide

Jack Phillips
By Jack Phillips
August 15, 2018US News

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency over the red tide algae—a smelly, toxic killer of wildlife—that has been plaguing the state’s shoreline for weeks.

Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties are now under a state of emergency due to the toxic algae bloom. His office added in a statement that “red tide is a naturally occurring algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840s and occurs nearly every year.”

“We will continue taking an aggressive approach by using all available resources to help our local communities,” the governor wrote in the state of emergency declaration on Aug. 13.

“Today, I am issuing an emergency declaration to provide significant funding and resources to the communities experiencing red tide so we can combat its terrible impacts. This includes making additional FWC biologists and scientists available to assist in clean-up and animal rescue efforts, more than $100,000 for Mote Marine Laboratory and $500,000 for VISIT FLORIDA to establish an emergency grant program to help local communities continue to bring in the visitors that support so many Florida families and businesses,” Scott said.

Meanwhile, Scott said his office is “directing a further $900,000 in grants for Lee County to clean up impacts related to red tide … bringing total red tide grant funding for Lee County to more than $1.3 million.”

He added: “While we fight to learn more about this naturally-occurring phenomenon, we will continue to deploy all state resources and do everything possible to make sure that Gulf Coast residents are safe and area businesses can recover.”

Florida’s Lee County posted warning signs about red tides at about 170 beach access points, the office said, adding that the signs have details on respiratory issues, health precautions, and current beach conditions. Charlotte County, Scott’s office said, has posted signage along the beaches to warn visitors and tourists about water conditions.

Red tide locations in southwest Florida. (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
Red tide locations in southwest Florida. (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Researchers Investigating

Researchers are now trying to figure out why the red tide problem has persisted for so long.

A scientist from Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) took samples of water near Ft. Myers in recent days, according to NBC News, in his quest to find any nitrogen-rich substances that might feed the red tide.

“Nitrogen is the limiting factor on the growth of anything in the sea,” said Bill Mitsch, who is the head of Everglades Wetlands Research Park and an environmental science professor at FGCU, according to the NBC report. “We are looking for signature types of nitrogen, like those in the lake, to see if they scoot right through and into the Gulf, where the red tide is.”

Beachgoers found large fish, turtles, and manatees dead on the coast, and some researchers have blamed red tide. In Sarasota County, 11 dead dolphins were discovered, but it is not clear if the red tide was a factor their deaths, Fox13 reported.

The Florida Wildlife Research Institute said that the number of dead or stranded sea turtles is around three times higher than average, Fox News reported.

From The Epoch Times

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