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The Red Tide: Disgusting and Deadly

Cover Photo Credit: Amanda Hall WINK

The Red Tide is something you may of heard of in the past. You may have even of heard of it this year alone. Florida, Southwest Florida in particular, is experiencing its worst Red Tide event since 2006! What is the Red Tide? Scroll down to find more.

First off, the Red Tide event this year is killing ‘scores’ of marine life and impacting the health of humans that suffer from respiratory illnesses as well. Across Southwest Florida in areas like; Ft. Myers, Sarasota and Tampa Bay, there has been an unprecedented amount of sea turtle deaths.

Pelicans, ducks, manatees, tarpon and even dolphins are suffering due to this tide.

The Red tide begins when onshore runoff drips into the coastal waters. This runoff contains human waste and chemicals from fertilizer and numerous other ingredients. Initially this starts as a hyper-local event but as more fish or marine life die, it adds to the unhealthy mixture creating a large scale impact. Much like what is seen right now along the Florida Gulf Coast.

This years event actually started in October of 2017 and has grown from the Ft. Myers area and spread to the north into Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, the fish and marine life that are washing up onshore make up only a quarter of the actual fish that are dead.

One indirect problem the Red Tide is causing is the smell. The smell of rotting fish and sea life is affecting the senses of residents along the coast and even far inland.

The Red Tide is a big deal that a lot of people are following and you should be too. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, explains exactly what the Red Tide is:

“Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur 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. The human illnesses caused by HABs, though rare, can be debilitating or even fatal.

While many people call these blooms ‘red tides,’ scientists prefer the term harmful algal bloom. One of the best known HABs in the nation occurs nearly every summer along Florida’s Gulf Coast. This bloom, like many HABs, is caused by microscopic algae that produce toxins that kill fish and make shellfish dangerous to eat. The toxins may also make the surrounding air difficult to breathe. As the name suggests, the bloom of algae often turns the water red.

HABs have been reported in every U.S. coastal state, and their occurrence may be on the rise. HABs are a national concern because they affect not only the health of people and marine ecosystems, but also the ‘health’ of local and regional economies.

But not all algal blooms are harmful. Most blooms, in fact, are beneficial because the tiny plants are food for animals in the ocean. In fact, they are the major source of energy that fuels the ocean food web.

A small percentage of algae, however, produce powerful toxins that can kill fish, shellfish, mammals, and birds, and may directly or indirectly cause illness in people. HABs also include blooms of non-toxic species that have harmful effects on marine ecosystems. For example, when masses of algae die and decompose, the decaying process can deplete oxygen in the water, causing the water to become so low in oxygen that animals either leave the area or die.

Scientists at the National Ocean Service have been monitoring and studying this phenomenon for a number of years to determine how to detect and forecast the location of the blooms. The goal is to give communities advance warnings so they can adequately plan for and deal with the adverse environmental and health effects associated with these ‘red-tide’ events.”
Source: NOAA.GOV 

If you would like to help the conservation and restoration efforts, several locals are setting up GoFundMe accounts that directly go towards research of the Red Tide.

For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Andy Stein