Florida Declares Emergency As Red Tide Blooms

Rick Scott and Bill Nelson

Rick Scott and Bill Nelson

The first reports of infected algae in the region is received back in October of previous year. The cleanup money for Lee County follows $400,000 in emergency funding directed last Tuesday toward cleaning county waters affected by red tide. And the red tide is killing fish by the thousands.

FWC is operating the toll-free fish kill hotline.

Dead marine life has washed up on beaches along the Gulf Coast.

Red tide is a term that describes a harmful algal bloom (HAB), which occurs "when colonies of algae-simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater-grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds" according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service. On the coast the stench of the water, dead fish, dolphins, turtles and even manatees. As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was forced to release massive amounts of nutrient-laden water from Lake Okeechobee to prevent the over-topping of the Hoover Dike.

Scott is ordering $100,000 for additional scientists to help with clean-up efforts and another $500,000 to help local communities and businesses struggling with lost income as tourists flee.

A detail photo taken through a microscope of Karenia brevis (red tide) cells during water sampling processing in this photo taken July 7, 2011. "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".

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This summer, that means the devastating red tide is happening at the same time as a toxic blue-green algae bloom spreads in the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie Estuary.

Despite the long history of red tides in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists don't know what causes them to persist.

They said while they can't go out in the Gulf and stop the red tide from blooming, they hope to be able to work with the Florida Department of Health, as well as the Army Corp of Engineers and other agencies, to eventually stop red tide.

"We lack a consistent set of observations offshore in what we believe to be the formative region for these blooms", said Robert Weisberg, professor of physical oceanography at University of South Florida College.

"I called on the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to help with the algae & red tide crisis here in Florida", Nelson tweeted.

But scientists say red tides in and of themselves are a natural phenomenon observed as far back as the 1600s.

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