State of emergency as Florida battles algae

Sen. Bill Nelson D-Fla. speaks during a roundtable discussion with education leaders from South Florida at the United Teachers of Dade headquarters Monday Aug. 6 2018 in Miami

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Interest in mitigation technologies has been heightened by a 10-month-long toxic algae bloom off Florida's southwestern coast that has caused mounds of rotting fish to wash up on beaches from Tampa to Naples.

More than $100,000 in additional funding to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium to increase its response to red tide impacts.

Most people aren't affected by swimming in red tide-infested waters, but skin irritation may occur.

This can be fatal, which is why red tides are often associated with fish kills.

The Florida Wildlife Research Institute says the number of dead and stranded sea turtles is almost three times higher than average.

Scott's emergency order includes more than just Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee, the counties where the algae bloom has been killing fish, turtles, manatees and, possibly, 11 dolphins and a whale shark.

Experiments carried out in huge 25,000-gallon tanks succeeded in removing all traces of the algae and its toxins, with the water chemistry reverting to normal within 24 hours, he said.

Direction for VISIT FLORIDA to begin developing a marketing campaign to assist Southwest Florida communities that will start following this year's red tide blooms.

Lee County, home to Fort Myers and Cape Coral, also will receive $900,000 in grant funding for cleanup projects related to red tide, Scott announced.

This summer, that means the devastating red tide is happening at the same time as a toxic blue-green algae bloom spreads in the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie Estuary.

The Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, produces potent neurotoxins called brevetoxins that can affect the central nervous system of many animals.

The red tide ― a harmful bloom of algae that occurs naturally ― began previous year and has spread through the Gulf of Mexico, now spanning some 150 miles.

For reasons not well understood, strong northerly winds that normally break up a red tide by December failed to materialize last winter, Stumpf said. The Sunshine State has not seen a bloom of this magnitude in more than a decade.

But scientists say red tides in and of themselves are a natural phenomenon observed as far back as the 1600s. Scott promised $1.5 million in emergency funding.

The declaration lasts for seven days but can be extended in seven-day increments, as was done in September 2017 after hurricane Irma.

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