Governor Ron DeSantis, alongside local scientists and researchers, shared insights about the current status of red tide in the St. Pete area, stating that it will not be as catastrophic as in the past.
“This is not 2018,” DeSantis said on Thursday during a roundtable discussion held at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, regarding how to combat the saltwater algae bloom. DeSantis and panelists, who ranged from Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium CEO and President Michael Crosby to Dr. Tom Frazer, dean and professor of the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, said the toxic red tide bloom was “patchy” as various levels are found in certain spots while not found in others.
Nevertheless, DeSantis said they are still closely monitoring it.
“We have made strategic investments in red tide research, mitigation, and communication efforts, but we cannot take our foot off the gas. My administration will continue to press forward to find solutions to the complex issues surrounding red tide,” DeSantis said during the roundtable.
Red tide is an algae bloom caused by an organism, K. brevis, which is deadly for marine life. The red tide incidents that have occurred over recent years have caused detrimental impacts for Tampa Bay area businesses, especially those located along the beachfront, as tons of dead fish wash up onshore.
The latest findings over the past week showed K. brevis was observed at nearly non-existent levels, to high concentrations, in Pinellas County (in 15 samples). A week ago, the concentration ranged from low to medium levels.
Very low to medium concentrations were found in Hillsborough County (in six samples) and nearly non-existent concentrations to medium concentrations in Manatee County (in 12 samples), according to FWC’s report on Thursday.
Fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were reported in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee counties. Human respiratory issues were also reported in Pinellas County.
On Thursday, Pinellas County closed the Dunedin Causeway in order to clean up dead fish, according to the county.
Red tide often plagues Southwest Florida.
“It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon, there’s no silver bullet,” said Crosby.
“We do know, however, that increased nutrient delivery to our coastal waters can exacerbate red tide events and every effort should be made to reduce nutrient pollution,” Frazer said.
Since 2019, the state has dedicated more than $14.5 million to the Center for Red Tide Research at FWC.
The FWC and Mote Marine Laboratory are continuing to develop technologies and approaches to control and mitigate red tide and its impacts.