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Casey Key, Florida, before (June 2018) and during (August 2018) red tide. Credit: Cody Johnson.

NCCOS Awards New Event Response Funding for Florida Red Tide

Published on: 08/22/2018
Region(s) of Study: U.S. States and Territories / Florida
Primary Contact(s): quay.dortch@noaa.gov

Electron microscope photo of the red tide alga Karenia brevis. Credit: FWRI.

On August 14, NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science provided an Event Response award of $19,200 to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) and Mote Marine Laboratory. The award will supplement their efforts to document and understand changes in the severity, duration, and location of the ongoing red tide along the southwest coast of Florida.

The bloom of the red tide alga, Karenia brevis, originated offshore of southwest Florida in October 2017. It intensified and moved closer to shore in June 2018, extending 130 miles and affecting seven Florida counties. Blooms of K. brevis produce brevetoxin, which kills fish and makes shellfish dangerous to eat. The toxins can become airborne through wave action and may cause respiratory irritation for people on or near beaches.

The bloom is taking an increasing toll on marine animals, including fish, sea turtles, birds, dolphins, and manatees. There are multi-million dollar economic impacts to the shellfish and tourism industries. Shellfish harvesting closures are necessary to protect human health and beach recreation, hotels and restaurants, and charter boats, are losing customers as people avoid areas with dead fish, strong odors, and air quality warnings.

Weekly HAB report from July 30–August 3, 2018 showing sampling conducted by FWRI in southwest Florida, including transect lines off Tampa Bay (sampled monthly for over a year) and Charlotte Harbor (sampled weekly since July). Credit: FWRI.

FWRI and Mote will conduct weekly one-day sampling efforts along a four-station transect line from three to 30 miles offshore in the impacted area near Boca Grande Pass. The award will fund expanded nutrient and biotoxin analyses for four weeks. The data are critical to predicting and mitigating impacts from this and future events. Continued and more severe impacts to fisheries, wildlife, human health and the local economy are likely as the bloom transitions into the late summer-fall period when K. brevis blooms typically thrive near shore.

The NCCOS HAB Event Response Program provides immediate assistance to help federal, state, and local officials manage events and advance the understanding of HABs as they occur.

For more information, contact Quay.Dortch@noaa.gov

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources, in direct support of NOS priorities, offices, and customers, and to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science
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