Red Tide killing sea life, making the disease along the Coast of the Gulf
The Sunshine State’s southwest coast was hit by a relentless Red Tide this summer-thousands of dead fish are clogging waterways, while manatees, turtles and even a whale shark washed up after falling victim to the dangerous water levels.
LITTLE GASPARILLA ISLAND, Florida. – Albert Fernandez has been fishing the waters of Florida his entire life. But as soon as the crystal clear waters remembers he has a brown-red for the past months because of a toxic algae pollute the water.
“I haven’t been here in months and the reason is, because I’m not going to enjoy myself,” he said while tying his aptly named boat, The Aquaholic, to a jetty near his home on Little Gasparilla Island, a barrier island, about an hour south of Venice, Fla. The island is only accessible by boat, and commutable with the golf cart, luring visitors from around the world looking for the remote control rest.
The area is normally packed with wild animals. But recently, the state of the Gulf Coast ravaged by a relentless Red Tide—thousands of dead fish are clogging waterways, while manatees, turtles and even a whale shark washed up after falling victim to the dangerous water levels.
The bloom occurs when colonies of algae—simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater — grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on humans, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, birds,” according to the National Ocean Service.
When marine life ingests the toxic chemicals, they become disoriented and drown. Their decaying bodies then have the potential to kill off entire marine ecosystems because decomposition can deplete oxygen in the water, killing other animals in the area or forcing them to move elsewhere.
People are in danger, also, in some cases. Red Tide can be deadly for people with asthma or other respiratory problems.
“The people who lived here 20, 30, 40 years, actually, they have to consider their houses as a result of this,” Fernandez said. “It is for them physically. They are sick.”
“It is terrible, as soon as I stepped out of my car, which is a few hundred metres away, it hit the back of my throat,” said Sarasota resident Erin Alonso. “It makes you cough, it’s just terrible.”
The Sunshine State is no stranger to the natural phenomenon. The flowers appear on the coast almost every year. But this is different and much more serious.
“I’ve been through a number of pretty bad, we live here for 30 years,” said Laurie Gaines, a property manager on the island. “There was a particularly bad in 2006…but this just doesn’t seem to go away.”
“It is worse before it gets better,” says Robert Weisberg, University of South Florida professor of physical oceanography, “we are still the remains of the Red Tide of last year, which never fully went away and the conditions offshore this year are conducive to the formation of a new bloom, who makes his way to the coast.”
All along the coast, vacation destinations, have turned into ghost towns, angry residents of a state heavily dependent on tourism.
“For a place where 70 percent of our seating is outside, this is pretty devastating,” said Joe Farrell, owner of the Pop’s Sunset Grill in Nokomis, Fla. “All companies are affected by it.”
“As a rental manager, I am to tell people,” we will allow you to plan and give you refunds,'” said Gaines. “We can’t encourage people to come to the island in situations such as this, to know that their family vacations will be ruined.”
Red Tide blooms manifest along the coastline, in the late summer and autumn, and usually a few months. Weisberg said they are coming from 40 to 50 miles off the coast and go with the current to the coast in some cases, but they travel under water and are not detected until they reach land.
Weisberg said a “perfect storm” of flow, heat, bacteria and nutrients come together to algal blooms, but other factors are the result of people, such as water pollution caused by fertilizers, sewage and septic tank runoff.
The flowers have spread as the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers releases water from Lake Okeechobee to keep levels to protect the aging Herbert Hoover Dike. Hurricane Irma the situation is even worse when it is ploughed, the state, the churning of the more nutrient-rich soil as it travelled across the ocean-like body of water with tropical wind force. Much of that water was released in the weeks after the storm through the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, and is considered to be an important factor in this year’s outbreak.
“This is something that affects not only the economy, but the ecology, which is so sensitive here in Florida,” Fernandez said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has an executive order last month, where states of emergency in various provinces to help in the fight against the growing flowers and announced an agreement on a $50 million state investment to fund repairs to the dike. The agreement follows a $50 million investment made earlier this year, making the state the total investment in the federal project of $ 100 million to reduce the amount of harmful water drains, by allowing more water to be stored in the lake.
“If our communities are once again confronted with the threat of harmful algal blooms caused by water releases from Lake Okeechobee, we continue to find innovative ways to combat this serious problem and fix the federal government, years of inactivity,” Scott said in the release.
This year the Red Tide has turned Florida’s most popular beaches, in a deserted wasteland.
It is unclear how long the Red Tide will last.
“People are not to be seen on the beach at its best, they are not to be seen in Florida at its best,” Gaines said, “and it is a shame.”
Allie Raffa is a multimedia reporter for Fox News based in Tampa.