Sunday, August 12, 2018

Algae bloom, rotting fish, no Florida tourist attraction

Julia Jacobo reports for ABC News:

Toxic algae bloom is creeping up the west coast of the Sunshine State, killing wildlife and keeping residents and tourists away from the acclaimed beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.

Higher than normal concentrations of Karenia brevis -- also known as red tide or harmful algal blooms -- have been plaguing southwest Florida since November 2017, discoloring the seawater and leaving piles of dead fish in its wake.

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Statewide, officials are monitoring the effects of the red tide.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have created a "bloom response team" to ensure the health of humans, water quality and the environment.

Earlier this week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott called for the FWC and FDEP to "mobilize all available resources" to address the impacts of the red tide. On Friday, Scott blamed the cause of the blooms on "the federal government releasing water from Lake Okeechobee."

"For too long, Floridians have had to deal with harmful algal blooms caused by the federal government releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into our rivers and coastal estuaries," Scott said in a press release. "Although the State of Florida has made progress on important projects to help alleviate the impact that chronic federal underfunding of this federal water system is causing, more needs to be done."

What is red tide? Red tide is a natural phenomenon that has been recorded on Florida's Gulf Coast since the 1840s, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. A common occurrence, red tide is caused by an overgrowth or accumulation of microscopic algae and often occurs in brackish or marine water, but not freshwater, according to the FWC.

Part of the reason why red tide is so prominent this season is because there are some leftover blooms from last year, Bob Weisberg, a professor of physical oceanography at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science, told ABC News.

Red tide occurs seasonally and typically blooms from late summer through early fall and lasts through winter, Weisberg said.

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