Red Tide Affecting Florida’s Coasts

Red+tide+visible+just+off+the+coast.
Red tide visible just off the coast.

Red tide visible just off the coast.

Red tide visible just off the coast.

Veronica Sanjurjo, Author

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Red tide, a persistent algal bloom, has developed along the Southwest, Northwest, and East coasts of Florida. This phenomenon produces toxic chemicals that can affect both humans and marine life. Most notably, red tide affects the central nervous system of animals, causing them to die prematurely. While its effects have been slightly reduced since August, when a state of emergency was declared, scientists and government officials continue searching for ways to fight toxic red tide.

The Karenia brevis algae, in the midst of a massive bloom cycle, has claimed victims along the coast of Florida. Dead fish, manatees, dolphins, and sea turtles have been found washed on shore. It has also caused serious complications for people with respiratory problems, as the neurotoxin that is produced can go airborne. Red tide, occurring every year for a few months, is not a new phenomenon. However, in this case, the season for algal bloom has lasted almost a year and has been more detrimental to life than ever.

 

Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory, an independent marine research organization based on City Island in Sarasota, Florida, have proposed two ways to combat red tide. First, they stated that the algal bloom could be treated with ozone, a reactive gas, in order to kill its root organism. Richard Pierce, a senior scientist at Mote, confirms that “this system gets rid of the red tide, gets rid of the toxins, gets rid of the excess organic matter that’s decomposing.” However, this would only be beneficial to small bodies of water such as canals, as it requires time and effort. The laboratory is also researching the use of clay in mitigating the effects of red tide. “Clay is sprayed atop the water, acting like a net as it sinks to the bottom and captures the red tide organisms,” Pierce explains.  Mote is working on developing a safe form of clay, as environmentalists have pointed out the possibility of clay harming the ecosystem.  

 

Florida governor Rick Scott recently announced that the state of Florida will be directing $2.2 million to Mote Marine Laboratory in order for it to expand its ozone treatment systems and test the effects of clay. He has also stated that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will be providing a $3 million grant in order to assist communities impacted by red tide. Floridians await the restoration of normalcy as beaches, wildlife, and businesses continue to be impacted.

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