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Residents, Mote react as red tide ravages tourism and marine life

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

The ravages of the red tide are quickly leading to residents reacting not only to the unpleasant effects of the algael bloom, but to what some say is the failure of area scientists and politicians to directly face what they say are the exacerbating factors of human activity.

Take Longboater J. Duzgun. Duzgan took time to write Longboat Key News and said that “I believe the phosphate mines are responsible for this horrific tragedy.”

Duzgun went on to say that he will not and we can not rely on Mote Marine to find a solution because he suggests that Mote is a supporter of Mosaic phosphate mining company, which Duzgun says is leaking millions of tons of phosphorous into our watersheds every year.

Another writer accused Mote and Longboat Key News as having a “seemingly unwillingness to mention the other suspected contributors to the natural phenomena (red tide).”

The writer, Stuart Sinai, said that Mote was afraid to lose state support and the newspaper has failed to mention unregulated fertilizer overuse, runoff by corporate and sugar agriculture, uninspected septic tanks and phosphorous mining companies.

 

Crosby attempts to clear water

Mote President and CEO Dr. Michael Crosby has attributed much of the heightened emotion and finger pointing as a natural reaction to the devastating effects of the red tide. That said, Crosby has also strived to distinguish between the blue-green algael blooms that have occurred in freshwaters, and the red tide algae blooms that begin far offshore.

Crosby in a recent opinion entitled, “Harmful algael blooms in Southwest Florida,” said, “Let’s tone down the rhetoric and work together for solutions.” He said that excess nutrients — whether it be pollution, stormwater runoff, or any other source — clearly exacerbates both red tide as well as the blue-green algael blooms.

Crosby said that more research is needed in his view to establish a connection between the decay of the freshwater algae when it hits the Gulf and whether that influences and feeds the red tide.

Crosby says that although red tide is naturally occurring, “…the type of intense bloom we are experiencing now is not normal, but it is also not unprecendented. It is also clear that the excess land-based nurtients flowing into Florida estuaries and coastal waters in stormwater runoff, rivers and creeks exacerbate the growth of harmful algae blooms.”

 

Sea of death

If any agency knows about the effects of the red tide first-hand, it would be Mote Marine, which has retreived more than a dozen dead bottlenose dolphins, 180 dead sea turtles, and more than a dozen turtles found on Friday alone.

Mote performs necropsies on the dead sea turtles and it is generally the red tide concentration in their system that builds up from ingesting contaminated food sources that kills the animal.

The culprit in red tide is the Karenia brevis algae, which forms the basis of the bloom that stretches for about 150 miles from Pinellas County south.

Governor Rick Scott has declared the red tide epidemic a State of Emergency, which will infuse millions of dollars to offset damages as well as to help market the region for tourism once the bloom subsides. While the area may experience relief in the coming days, experts warn the easterly winds that help drive the bloom offshore can subside and the red tide can return. Red tide blooms have historically been most severe in September and October.

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