When large concentrations of Florida red tide (Karenia Brevis) form blooms, it can discolor the water to appear red or brown, creating what is referred to as ‘red tide.’ Red tide is a marine dinoflagellate that feeds on nutrients like nitrogen, and can take advantage of excess nutrients in the water to multiply. Typically, blooms develop offshore, but can be brought inshore by currents and winds. When blooms are transported inshore, human-generated nutrient pollution can intensify them, like throwing fuel on a fire.
Karenia Brevis produces neurotoxins that can sicken or kill fish, seabirds, turtles and marine mammals. Toxins can also affect humans, causing respiratory irritation if toxins are inhaled, and skin and/or eye irritation by contact. It can also cause shellfish poisoning if shellfish contaminated with toxins are consumed.
Once inshore, red tide blooms can feed on human-generated nutrient pollution to fuel their growth. These excess nutrients can come from nutrient-loaded Lake Okeechobee discharges, stormwater runoff, agricultural runoff, fertilizer entering the waterways, inadequate sewage/wastewater infrastructure, and other contributors.
Scientists from Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and University of Florida’s Center for Coastal Solutions recently published a study confirming that Lake O discharges intensify coastal red tide blooms. These high-volume discharges inundate the Caloosahatchee estuary with nitrogen-loaded freshwater and toxic cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that supercharges red tide blooms to unnatural intensity and duration
The SCCF/UF study serves as a valuable step forward by providing the scientific evidence needed to pursue opportunities to reduce coastal bloom intensity, duration, and, perhaps, frequency through strategic watershed nutrient management and Lake discharge operations. However, such strategies cannot be expected to eliminate blooms altogether, since offshore initiation and shoreward transport of blooms is well documented (e.g., Weisberg et al., 2019). Further investigation and modeling will be needed to quantify the extent to which policy and management interventions within the watershed can be expected to provide relief. (source: SCCF/UF study)
Captains For Clean Water is primarily focused on expediting Everglades restoration in order to reduce harmful Lake O discharges and send the water south to the Everglades where it’s needed. With our powerful army of supporters, we advocate for state and federal funding to expedite Everglades restoration progress, advance effective water policy, and ensure policy makers keep water quality a priority by creating public pressure to hold them accountable
Everglades restoration progress is happening at record pace! Momentum has continued thanks to public engagement on water issues and the leadership of Governor DeSantis. The cornerstone project, the EAA Reservoir, just broke ground in February 2023 and will be the single most effective project for reducing harmful discharges and sending water south. Learn the latest on Everglades restoration progress in the 2023 South Florida Environmental Report (SFER) by the South Water Management District (SFWMD).
LOSOM is expected to be implemented in Fall 2023, however, it will take a full water year before we begin to see the benefits of the new plan.
Get involved. There is no silver bullet solution to red tide or water quality issues which is why it’s critical to complete Everglades restoration as quickly as possible. That requires involvement from people like yourself who care about the state of our water, getting involved and speaking up when we have the opportunity to influence progress or water policy outcomes.
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