Mote Marine Laboratory launches series of new studies to combat red tide

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - Mote Marine Lab scientists said while it's hard to say if this bloom is among the worst seen in recent years, they are still launching brand new efforts to stop it.

It's not just killing the fish, it's also keeping many people from enjoying some of the top beaches in the country. 

Mote scientists said they've heard the sneezes and concerns and are working around the clock to find a solution.

The effects of red tide have been felt from Siesta Key to Nokomis, Venice, even as far south as Manasota Key and Boca Granda.

The scientists said this bloom has been present off and on since October, but in the last two weeks, the red tide has been particularly bad.

"Anytime we have a bloom that impacts people, we consider it bad enough to study it and try to figure out what we can do about it," explained Dr. Vincent Lovko, scientist with the Mote Marine Laboratory.

Which is why Mote has launched a series of new studies that might help control it.

"This is one of the living dock or the artificial restructures that we've built," showed Dr. Lovko. 

Essentially, the structure is PVC pipe molded into a cube and left by the dock to attract filter feeders.

"We have some tube worms and barnacles, all of which are filter feeders that help remove particles from the water," Dr. Lovko said. "Since their function is to remove particles from the water, then perhaps we can use them to remove red tide from the water."

Unfortunately, this would only be effective in smaller concentrations, such as residential canals. 

Scientists are also looking to use seaweed that would kill red tide, but even this would not be that permanent fix for bigger bodies of water.

"To think that you could do something in this large body of water is very difficult," Dr. Lovko said. "The blooms can be 100 miles long and 50 miles wide and that's a lot of area to cover to put anything on it."

But Mote is confident that it will continue to make strides towards controlling it, without harming the natural ecosystem.

"We will never have a mitigation method that really works without research. Research, to us at Mote, is everything," explained Hayley Rugter, spokesperson for Mote Marine Laboratory.

But without the funding, the research is impossible. 

"All of these projects are new and they're exciting, but they could definitely use community support. If you're interested in that, you can contact Mote's Development Office, at (941) 388-4441, extension 309."

Mote has also launched a new app that allowes beachgoers to mark whether or not they are seeing the affects of red tide in their area. 

Scientists said this will help both them and the beach goers know where these blooms are strongest.

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