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Florida's Red Tide Disaster is on Both Coasts

Updated on October 6, 2018
Just one of many casualties found dead in the water
Just one of many casualties found dead in the water

There is no doubt about the Red Tide, a blooming, toxic algae that suffocates fish, sea turtles, crabs, manatees, and dolphins, it is being carried by ocean currents. It was just very recently that it was detected along many beaches in the Miami area, forcing their closure. This was quite a shock for the Red Tide is usually confined to the Gulf from Naples to the panhandle.

While the Red Tide is a natural event dating back to the first recorded instance in the mid-1800's, Spanish settlers had also encountered it in the 1500's. But in a 2007 report, the persistence and frequency has increased by 20% since the 1990's. The study showed that Florida's growth coupled with the use of fertilizers that runoff into the ocean and lakes may be the cause of today's ecological disaster. While most red tides bloom in the Fall, with the abundance of nutrients now fed to the algae from fertilizer, it can bloom nearly all year in some places. This makes the beaches vacant and severely hurts tourism.

The current tide has spread 150 miles long and up to 10 miles wide along much of the Gulf coast, with Naples, Ft. Myers, Venice, Sarasota, taking the brunt. However, it has reached St. Petersburg and Tampa. So far, 2000 tons of fish, 200 sea turtles, some dolphins have been killed from suffocation once the algae is ingested. The state has already spent $8 million in clean up costs and yet there is NO containment because the ocean currents carry it all over the Gulf. It has also impacted Texas beaches.

The Red Tide was actually "discovered" and named just 40 years ago by scientist Karen Steidinger. Since the research points to excess use of fertilizer for this prolonged plague, the solution would seem to be simple. If you remove the food the algae feeds on, then the natural event should diminish. But, the solution is complicated by political parties. In the past eight years, the pro-business Republicans have controlled things in Florida and they have removed environmental regulations to promote business. Many feel they have contributed to the current ecological dilemma that is hurting the tourism economy. Of course, mother nature has a role also with heavy rains forcing heavy runoff into rivers and lakes leading into the ocean. To prevent flooding in the central area of the state, levees were opened and these nutrient filled lakes flowed into the rivers creating excessive algae blooms.

The Red Tide is also spotty. One beach may be hit with it causing breathing and itching problems, while another beach is clear. Beach reports are issued daily along the Gulf coast to advise beach goers. When bad, one can smell an odor miles away from the ocean as the wind carries. If sitting on the beach, one begins to cough or itch. Other times, there is no indication until you look and see the thick red algae in the water or floating dead fish or crabs.

This year is the worst since 2005. There are no signs mankind can control it this to any certain degree. Mankind has made a natural ecosystem become a monster that is ruining Florida's selling points.


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