The Florida Gulf Coast is particularly vulnerable to Red Tide. Unfortunately, we can't control it and we don't know when it will strike. By way of background Red Tide is a high concentration of microscopic algae called K-Brevis. Many people believe it is caused by pollution, but according to Florida Fish and Wildlife and Mote Marine websites there is no direct link.
Blooms develop 10-40 miles offshore and have been recorded in Florida long before our coastlines were densely populated. The threat to wildlife is significant, including huge fish kills and poisoned sea birds who feed on the dead fish. There are also public health risks like scratchy throats and respiratory irritation.
And of course the negative impact of tourism including cancellations and a growing awareness that Red Tide is a regular fact of life in South West Florida. So what's the bottom line.
First, we need more research on prevention, this should be a priority for the Marine Scientific community. Secondly, we need to respond in a more timely manner when Red Tide strikes, especially on our barrier islands. Long Boat Key alone picked up 55 tons of dead fish in the last few weeks.
That's a good example for all our city and county governments. It is imperative that we budget for and develop immediate response plans just like cities up north respond to snow removal. This is a public health, public relations, and environmental disaster.
If we can clear thousands of acres of land for new highways and sub divisions, we ought to be able to clean-up our beaches and canals more quickly when Red Tide strikes. The failure to do so, like a fish, rots from the head down.
I'm Steve Sabato and we'd like to hear from you.