Concerns have been mounting among environmentalists regarding marine life in Florida’s Tampa Bay region as Red Tide continues to pollute the water, disrupting local commercial fisheries.
The Center of Biological Diversity has brought together 29 environmental organisations to sign a letter prompting Gov. Ron DeSantis to take immediate action to allow for a collective state-wide recovery initiative, to further local government efforts.
Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director and senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity said: “This is the whole job of having a centralized executive government, to provide this type of oversight and leadership, when there’s a crisis of regional magnitude, which is what Red Tide is.”
Red Tide is a collection of harmful algae that produces neurotoxins which are particularly harmful in high concentrations, and feed upon nutrients such as nitrogen.
Scientists say that the current Red Tide has been made worse this year in the Bay due to the disposal of polluted wastewater containing high volumes of nitrogen – of which 200 million gallons were dumped March and April off the grounds of the old Piney Point fertilizer plant in Manatee County.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the neurotoxins released by the toxic algae “affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates.”
The current crisis has led to over 600 tons of dead marine life since the end of June, with scientists now investigating the potential impact on dolphins in the area.
It is impossible to predict when the Red Tide will end as the duration of blooms can last anywhere from a few weeks to over a year, according to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Red Tides have been a growing concern for years, with experts warning in a 2015 letter published in Environmental Science & Technology that: “Because of climate change, we are at a crossroad with regard to control of harmful algal blooms, and must aggressively tackle the problem before it becomes so difficult that in many ecosystems we are faced with the option of allowing these micro-organisms to go unchecked.”
The state has already sent almost $1 Million USD to assist local clean-up efforts in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County at the start of July, however, further support is required to offset the economic and environmental fallout of the bloom, according to J.P. Brooker, director of Florida conservation at the Ocean Conservancy.
“What we really need here is the freeing up of resources to actually get on the water and clean up the dead fish that are already in the water,” Brooker stated.
“As those fish decay, they’re going to release more nitrogen, which is going to fuel the Red Tide event even further.” He added.