Governor Rick Scott today announced that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is partnering with world-renowned red tide experts to conduct field experiments to mitigate the effects of red tide. This partnership, which will focus on using a form of specialized clay to quell the effects of red tide, includes experts and scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of South Florida and Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Red tide is naturally-occurring algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840’s and occurs nearly every year. For more information on red tide in Florida, click HERE.
Governor Scott said, “In Florida, when we are faced with challenges, we take action to engage innovative solutions that best fit our needs – and our fight against red tide is no different. I am proud today to announce that through the FWC, Florida will once again lead the way in research and action on red tide. This partnership of world-renowned scientists is an important step forward as we look for ways to mitigate the impacts of red tide and help our impacted communities quickly recover. In August, I declared a state of emergency in response to red tide and secured a disaster declaration from the Small Business Administration. I have also directed $13 million in grant funding to help our communities impacted by red tide and blue-green algae and provided $1.2 million to help expand FWC’s redfish hatchery. We will continue to provide every possible resource to those impacted by red tide and I will never stop fighting for our coastal communities.”
Eric Sutton, FWC Executive Director, said, “FWC is committed to working with worldwide experts to test cutting-edge ways to potentially treat red tide. The fact that it is a natural occurrence and of such a wide scale creates an enormous challenge. However, if we do not take action to explore innovative techniques, we can never advance the discussion on the feasibility of managing red tide.”
In August, Governor Scott issued Executive Order 18-221 declaring a state of emergency due to impacts of red tide. To date, Governor Scott has directed grant funding totaling $13 million for communities impacted by red tide and blue-green algae. This is in addition to the $1.2 million announced for FWC’s redfish hatchery, $100,000 for Mote Marie Laboratory’s red tide response, and $500,000 for VISIT FLORIDA to create an emergency grant program to assist local tourism development boards in counties affected by the naturally-occurring red tide.
Red tide occurs around the world and through decades of research, scientists are gaining a better understanding of this organism, but there is still much more to be learned. One of the areas of research is the potential to mitigate or manage the effects of blooms. While the use of clays to combat red tide has been a topic of discussion for many years, only recently have leading scientists developed a new form of specialized clay that they believe may help control red tide with fewer impacts to the ecosystem. These experiments will be conducted in a controlled environment and will have the ability to be scaled up depending on the success of these methods. These field experiments using clay are in addition to the ongoing field experiment initiated by Mote Marine using ozonation – a process that uses ozone to destroy the algae and its toxins.
THE STATE OF FLORIDA HAS TAKEN THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS ON RED TIDE:
FISH AND WILDLIFE
- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is providing $1.2 million to enhance research and production of redfish at the FWC Stock Enhancement Research Facility at Port Manatee. Learn more HERE.
- DEP and the FWC have provided $100,000 in additional funding to Mote Marine to support efforts to rescue distressed marine animals, such as dolphins, sea turtles and manatees.
- Continuation of enhanced water monitoring and testing by DEP and FWC to give scientists the best possible data to work with.
- At Governor Scott’s direction, FWC has mobilized all available resources to mitigate naturally occurring red tide, and Executive Director Eric Sutton has waived rules through an executive order to expedite the removal of dead fish – regardless of applicable bag, size, or possession limits or of season or area closures – from shoreline, inshore or nearshore areas in the following counties: Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas.
- FWC law enforcement officers have been actively helping with animal rescue and red tide reconnaissance work.
- Additional biologists and scientist are available to support local government’s response to red tide and protect wildlife.
- FWC is performing increased aerial surveys of the red tide bloom.
- FWC is operating the toll-free fish kill hotline. To report fish kills, contact the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511 or submit a report online. Reports from this hotline help FWC researchers track and better understand the impact of red tide in Florida.
- FWC remains available to local agencies and partners in affected areas, including area business and tourism groups in Southwest Florida. Any local agency or group that has any questions or concerns can contact Susan Neel from the FWC at 850-528-1755.
- FWC continues to partner with the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to advise residents and visitors of any potential health impacts. Residents and visitors can contact DOH’s aquatic toxin experts at 850-245-4250 or contact their local health department for any concern about health safety.
- FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory work together to monitor Karenia brevis. This cooperative effort is designed to help mitigate the adverse impacts of red tide. This joint research program that includes red tide monitoring, research and public outreach and education has resulted in better tools and ongoing monitoring for red tides along the Gulf Coast.
- In partnership with FWC, the Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides (CPR) at the University of South Florida offers a new Harmful Algal Bloom tracking tool that generates a 3.5-day forecast of the bloom trajectories.
- To protect public health, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s Harmful Algal Bloom group closely monitors the status of Karenia brevis on Florida’s coasts, providing technical support to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the agency that regulates approved shellfish harvesting areas.
- Since 2000, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute established a Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program, which is a volunteer program for citizens to help collect water samples from routine collection points and sites reported for suspected harmful algal blooms. The timely sampling by volunteers allows researchers to provide an early warning of offshore algal blooms and investigate reported events as they occur. The Program needs volunteers to collect samples from all coastal Florida counties. To view more information visit, Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program or use the Volunteer SignUp Form.
- DEP has provided $13 million in funding to support efforts to battle impacts of red tide and blue-green algae in the following counties:
- More than $1.3 million for Pinellas County;
- $750,000 for Manatee County;
- More than $190,000 for Collier County;
- Nearly $1.5 million for Sarasota County;
- A total of $3.9 million for Lee County; and
- $700,000 for Martin County.
- DEP continues to perform enhanced water testing, beach cleanup and public outreach, as well as the deployment of additional biologists to assist communities dealing with naturally occurring red tide.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
- Florida’s County Health Departments have taken the following actions:
- DOH-Lee has posted and is maintaining red tide signs at more than 180 beach access points along the Lee County coastline. The red tide signs provide details on respiratory issues, health precautions, and resources for FWC, Mote Marine and current beach conditions. Environmental staff and County Health Department (CHD) leadership are in contact with city and county leadership, as well as local partners, in order to coordinate efforts and messaging. A press release detailing the effects of red tide and resources for mediation was sent out to local media partners. Additional resources, like website materials, social media posts, etc., have been shared with local partners for their use and distribution to their partners. More substantial red tide signs were purchased in August and staff replaced the damaged/missing signs along the beach access points, as well as added additional signs at popular fishing sites and boat ramps. Total signs that have been posted for Lee County are 300+.
- DOH-Manatee has hosted a discussion with community partners to understand current roles and share resources. The CHD has a distribution list setup to share information quickly with key personnel. They are also helping to coordinate discussions to help our partners meet on a periodic basis.
- DOH-Sarasota leadership and environmental staff have been in contact with city and county government and Visit Sarasota in order to coordinate messaging and provide template signage, website links, and creative materials. The CHD has also worked with the county in order to post signs at every beach, provided rack cards to the county and Mote for distribution.
- DOH-Charlotte has posted signage along the beaches to advise visitors and tourists about the water conditions. The CHD has performed outreach to their community partners, as well as local government, to share informational resources, creative materials and public health messaging. They also are coordinating efforts and assisting their sister agencies, as needed.
- DOH-Pinellas is currently working with the county government to update a red tide webpage that provides public health and safety information. Environmental staff are in constant communication with central office subject matter experts to discuss outreach and other best practices, should they be needed.
- DOH-Hillsborough is working with their community and county officials to finalize a joint information system, and continues to monitor the situation.
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
- At the direction of Governor Scott, VISIT FLORIDA began developing a marketing campaign to assist Southwest Florida communities that will start following this year’s red tide blooms.
- VISIT FLORIDA created a $500,000 Tourism Recovery Grant Program for Red Tide to assist local tourism development boards in counties affected by the naturally-occurring red tide.
- VISIT FLORIDA launched a Red Tide Recovery Marketing Program offering six months complimentary VISIT FLORIDA marketing partnership, which includes an enhanced web listing on VISITFLORIDA.com, public relations and social media resources and the opportunity to have a presence in the official Florida Welcome Centers with brochure distribution, lobby booth displays and showcase participation.
- The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has activated the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to provide short-term, interest free loans to affected businesses.
- DEO continues to encourage impacted businesses to submit a business damage assessment survey at FloridaDisaster.biz. Surveys help DEO and their partners determine additional resources that may be made available to help the business community recover.
- Following requests by Governor Rick Scott, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a disaster declaration on red tide. Please find the announcement from the SBA on red tide HERE.