Gov. Rick Scott is asking the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to create a ‘Florida Center for Red Tide Research’ to study the causes of red tide and research ways to mitigate its effects.
“This year’s devastating bloom has left no question — we must increase our efforts to find a cause and solution for naturally occurring red tide,” Scott wrote.
In all of his correspondence regarding this summer’s red tide bloom, Scott consistently refers to the outbreak as naturally occurring and points out it happens almost every year dating back to 1844.
While that’s true, critics argue the problem has been exacerbated by nutrient pollution (i.e., fertilizer runoff), a finding supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“Algae is naturally occurring, but when you add nutrients from fertilizer and manure runoff and sewage overflow and all these things coming from Lake Okeechobee and the Mississippi River, paired with warm water, it just goes into this toxic brew and you get these massive blooms,” said Frank Jackalone, Florida chapter director for the Sierra Club.
Jackalone said Scott’s efforts are a distraction from his environmental policy failures: “He’s running for U.S. Senate, not Governor. He’s had eight years to do something about this.”
Still, Scott is asking for several other mitigation and prevention efforts. In his letter, he encouraged the FWC to formally request additional research funding and to create a competitive grant fund for businesses to encourage innovative solutions.
He’s also asking the Legislature to reconvene the state’s Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force.
To date, the state has allocated $14 million for mitigation and compensation associated with this year’s bloom that’s affecting much of Florida’s Gulf Coast from southwest Florida to Clearwater.
Crews continue to patrol waters just offshore to collect dead fish before they reach the shore, but dead fish and other marine life still are making their way to the beach causing rancid smells.
Toxins in the air also create minor to severe respiratory discomfort. The effects can be worsened for people with respiratory problems like asthma or emphysema.
Red tide also is causing problems for businesses near the beach as visitors continue to avoid contaminated beaches.
Florida hasn’t seen an outbreak this bad since 2005 when the event lasted an entire year and created a dead zone void of oxygen.
Part of Florida’s current mitigation efforts is funding for the state’s Redfish hatchery to recover that species’ population.