Red tide is a term that refers to the phenomenon of algae blooming at the same time, causing damage to living species including corals, algae, animals and even humans.
Florida’s southwest coast is made up of an expanse of windward islands and breakwaters. It is the birthplace of many species of wildlife, but it has now become a burial place for thousands of creatures after the red tide.
Red tide is the term used to refer to the phenomenon of algal blooms at the same time causing damage to living species including corals, algae, animals and even humans. When the red tide occurs, the sea water often turns red or other colors depending on the type of algae.
The number of dead fish by the thousands blocked estuaries and canals. Since July 29, at least 10 giant groupers have died, with the carcass of a reef fish that can live for more than 40 years floating in the water. At least 90 sea turtles have been found stranded because the tides coincided with the turtle nesting season.
On July 31, as hundreds of residents gathered in a room at the Cape Coral Yacht Club to listen to the efforts of the federal government to deal with what happened, a dead manatee drifted aside Of the boat.
In early July, a whale carcass was also found on Sanibel beach with traces of the red tide preserved in its flesh, liver, intestines and stomach.
Hundreds of cormorants, brown pelicans and other birds also became ill or died.
In June, green algae bloomed on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River, harsh natural conditions that angered businesses and locals and caught the attention of tribes and tourists visiting the city.
Heather Barron, veterinarian and research director at the CROW Clinic Wildlife Rescue Center in Sanibel, said: “This is the most terrible thing that we are going through, but it must be done. There is a call to wake them up. people this clean water is not only important for wildlife, but also for many other things.
The center began treating the infected birds in early October: “As I witnessed the deaths of hundreds of creatures, I feel really sad.
“Despite being known as a shellfish and snail paradise, Sanibel Island has started issuing a daily state of emergency for residents and calculating the number of dead fish on each coast,” said Mrs. Barron. .
On the Englewood County coast, by contrast, Paige Bakhaus had to lay off five employees to cut costs, after shutting down her boat trip to Stump Pass Bay in July and just expanding her business on Don Pedro Island to some. hours.
“It affects us all when something like this happens,” says Ms. Bakhaus, who founded the company in 2011. And while my company is actually quite small, it has had a huge impact. Then imagine how devastating that would be for big business. “
On Sanibel Island, the cleanup crew couldn’t keep up with this rotting wave of dead marine life, and it spanned miles in either direction. It’s unclear how long this could last – the worst algae bloom lasted 17 months in 2006.
Typically, red tides occur off the southwest coast of Florida in the late summer, spring, and fall of each year. But because of the currents and the wind, some red tides will never reach the shore.
This year, however, is an exception. Florida state environmental officials say it’s the worst since a high tide in 2006 killed more than 250 manatees.
At this time, many government environmental officials are not available to answer questions.
However, Mayor Kevin Ruane of Sanibel blamed a storm that polluted the coast, warm waters, and runoff from lakes and streams as the source of the problem.
“Obviously, all of this caused the red tide,” he said. It is the catalyst that makes the problem worse. “
Rick Bartleson, research scientist at the Sanibel Conservation Foundation, said: “Red tides are actually created in the open sea. It is fed by bacteria from the seabed. But the problem is, it’s not clear why this type of algae increases rapidly on the sea surface and tends to move east.
Although some scientists believe that loop current can play an important role, this only happens when the right conditions are in place.
“This only happens when the currents don’t separate the algae,” he explains. Instead, they need to be more developed and focused. Moreover, you also need to make sure of the amount of nutrients to provide them.
According to recorded information, when Hurricane Irma swept through the water, it transmitted tropical wind forces over a distance of 600 km in the Okeechobee area. Then the storm acted like a mixer. It causes all the nutrients at the bottom of the sea to mix with the water. Around this time, the US military also moved to a lower water level to protect the old dike. The repair work will cost approximately USD 1.7 billion.
In November 2017, the process of monitoring algae growth by satellite was conducted by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was also around this time that they began to spot the algae blooms growing along the coast.
Ms Barron said red tide poisoning of seabirds was discovered as early as October 2017, long before the fish were killed. “This suggests that there may have been a lot of sick fish.”
Usually after October, sea turtles will come ashore to breed. And naturally, the red tide season will end before the turtles nest. But this year it continues to last even though the turtles have started to lay eggs.
Ms Baroon added: “Yesterday I went out and saw thousands of flounders and dead eels. There are also a lot of mother eels and baby eels. As you can see, there is clearly a huge impact on future generations of organisms. “
Currently, the state continues to monitor red tide activity every year and publishes regular forecasts during the red tide season. However, inconsistent tracking made forecasts less accurate. In fact, people often do not know whether the number of red tides occurring is high or low.
According to data collected between 1953 and 1998, most of the algae samples collected near the coast grew at different depths.
After 1998, the state received federal funding for 2 consistent monitoring and reporting programs that lasted for 5 years. But after the funding dried up, the state only started taking samples from volunteers.
Ms Barron said that during her seven years at the Wildlife Center, she has noticed a steady increase in the number of red tides occurring each year.
Mr Ruane also said: “This year is the first time in 12 years as mayor that the city needs to hire more workers to clean up fish carcasses.
And although red tides are an annual event, Mr Ruane sees the severity of this year’s tides as an opportunity to educate citizens about the dangers of over-fertilization, without addressing the problem of stormwater pollution. and the need for long-term remediation of the Everglades.
Finally Mrs. Barron said: “The wild animal is the canary in the coal mine. He can tell us: your environment is not clean and you humans need to do something to improve it. “
How dangerous are red tides?
According to the U.S. Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), when single-celled algae living in saltwater and freshwater areas bloom, they can be harmful to humans, marine species, mammals, and wildlife. algal blooms on humans have been recorded, although rare.
Creatures that die from the red tide are very dangerous to human health and cannot be used for food. In addition, the atmosphere around the algae bloom area is also very difficult to breathe.
In recent years, scientists have continuously recorded reports of algal blooms around the world. In the United States, these are phenomena of national concern because they not only affect human health, but also wreak havoc on marine ecosystems and cause direct damage to local and regional economies.
If algae blooms occur between aquaculture and fishing areas, it will result in massive death of the organisms. Some algae produce potent toxins that can kill fish or crustaceans, mammals and birds, or cause disease in humans.
In the case of the proliferation and death of non-toxic algae, their decomposition depletes oxygen in the seawater, causing mass death of animals.
In addition, the accumulation of a large number of algae during respiration forms a mucous membrane on the gills of fish, affecting the absorption of oxygen in the water. Scientists have discovered damage to the gills of dead fish from red tides around the world.
In fact, algae are an important link in the oceanic food chain. Most algae flowers are beneficial. They provide a large amount of plentiful food which nourishes other animals. However, when the balance of nature is disturbed, especially when the amount of algae is too high, it will have a negative impact on the ecosystem.