Published: Tue, August 07, 2018
Science | By Patricia Jimenez

The toxic red tide that’s decimating Florida’s marine life

The toxic red tide that’s decimating Florida’s marine life

The sparkling white sand of Florida's southwestern beaches aren't dotted with sunbathers this week. The FWC "documented 287 sea turtle deaths in Gulf of Mexico waters along the southwest Florida coast since the toxic bloom started in October", the Associated Press reported last week. However, there has yet to be a firm link established between nutrient pollution and the severity of red tide, according to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.

And red tide may be to blame. The state's governor has declared a state of emergency. These samples are analyzed for detection and enumeration of Karenia brevis-the species responsible for Florida red tide-along with water quality parameters, phytoplankton community composition, and red tide toxins, officials said.

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According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Red Tide along the west coast is the Karenia brevis, a strain of algae that is nearly exclusive to Florida waters. At least 90 sea turtles have been found stranded as the tide stretches well into nesting season.

Also this week, a manatee in distress from exposure to red tide in southwest Florida was taken to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation. Polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee are blamed for the toxic algae problems. The algae bloom - which gets its name because the microscopic algae often turn water red - has already lasted since November of previous year, and could stretch into 2019, some scientists are saying.

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Most algae blooms are beneficial to the ocean, providing a source of food for marine creatures.

Usually, cold spells break up or kill off some of the algae, but not this time.

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A bloom of red tide algae has swept in from Naples to Tampa, killing marine life and tourism in its path. "That's due, in part, to having red tide and a very cold winter", said Mezich.

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