An extensive Karenia brevis algae bloom off of the Florida coast prompted NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science to provide the state funding to pay for offshore monitoring of the bloom's development, movement, and toxicity. This can help the state more accurately predict its magnitude and movement of the bloom as well as its impacts.
The bloom started in early September and now stretches for 100 miles along the southwest Florida coast. Media reports claim that the red tide is responsible for killing seven tons--or more--of fish around Sarasota alone.
NCCOS's algal bloom Event Response Program is funding the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to monitor the outbreak.
Also involved in the response are investigators from NCCOS, the University of South Florida, Mote Marine Laboratory, and the University of Miami.
The researchers are providing cell count data to NOAA's harmful algal bloom forecasters to help refine their accuracy. The scientists are also testing an experimental control method for future blooms like this one. It involves seeding the water with natural silicates, which stimulate blooms of harmless diatoms that compete with Karenia for the same nutrients.
Karenia is responsible for killing seabirds, mammals, and massive amounts of fish. Humans who breathe "red tide air" are at risk of severe respiratory irritation. People who eat shellfish tainted with the toxin can contract Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP), a rare but debilitating condition that can send them to the hospital. For this reason, three counties closed their shellfish beds as a precautionary measure.