Red Tide Rolls Into Florida Again

Map: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission via CNN

We are not talking about the Alabama football team.  The red tide that plagued the West Coast of Florida for more than a year in 2017-18 is back again, and that means no swimming and increased respiratory problems for residents in the Naples-Fort Myers-Sarasota area, not to mention negative impacts to local businesses.  According to CNN, scientists say it is difficult to predict where the tide is heading next, or how long it will last, but the last one — which lasted 16 months — was devastating.  There have already been dead fish and turtles reported in the areas where the algae concentrations are the highest.

Why This Matters:  Climate change and runoff from agriculture and development are the culprits and this toxic algae problem seems to be a problem that is here to stay.  Locals are worried about their health, wildlife like fish and dolphins, and whether their businesses can survive if this outbreak lasts for long.  In the past, red tides happened but they lasted only a week or two — but the previous one lasted 16 months.  And for a part of the country where “snowbirds” from the midwest are not coming to visit or staying as long, that can have a huge impact on the entire state’s economy, particularly if it spreads as up the coast as it has in the past.  It is not safe to swim, breath the air, or consume the fish from the ocean areas that are contaminated.

Why Is It Back?

Scientists do not yet understand how the red tide began this year because it seems to have originated close to shore, which is unusual.  Generally, red tides thrive once they get close to shore where warm, shallow waters and nutrient runoff from farms, lawn fertilizer, and leaky septic systems, plus decomposing fish, provide the ideal environment for explosive algae growth.  Fortunately, it has not spread to the panhandle of Florida or the east coast of the state — at least not yet.

To Get the Latest Info:  You can get up to date information on the status of the red tide from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by clicking here.

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