While red tide algal blooms have occurred off the coast of western Florida since before the state was heavily developed – the earliest accounts of its presence date back to the 1880s, and J.N. Ding Darling himself wrote about a massive red tide bloom in the 1940s – current residents of this part of the state are unfortunately well-aware of just how harmful a red tide bloom can be.
The most recent, massive bloom lasted about a year and a half, and caused incredible devastation to marine life all up and down the southwest Florida coast, and negatively impacted our tourist economy. And while these blooms are naturally occuring, their severity and persistence in more modern times seems to indicate that land-based nutrient pollution, like what’s flowing into the Gulf from the Caloosahatchee River, must at least be exacerbating the problem.
But, researchers say that there is not conclusive proof of a connection between the two. And now, thanks to legislation signed last week by Governor Ron DeSantis, there’s going to be a funding boost to expand research into the causes, and impacts, of red tide – and to try to develop technologies and approaches to control and mitigate its impacts going forward. It creates what’s called The Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative. It's a multi-year partnership between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, and Mote Marine Laboratory. We discuss this new partnership, and what lies ahead in terms of research, with Dr. Michael Crosby, Mote's President.