Toxic “Red Tide” Responsible for More Than 2,000 Tons of Dead Marine Life

It’s been a rough summer for the great state of Florida. From its scary sea lice outbreak to its creepy-crawly New Guinea flatworm problem, the Sunshine State sure has had to deal with its fair share of environmental crises. And, just when everyone thought it was finally safe to go back in the water, another tragedy has hit the Florida shorelines–it’s a red tide so bad the governor has been forced to declare a state of emergency!

On August 13th, Governor Rick Scott declared that a whopping seven counties–Hillsborough, Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, and Pinellas–have been severely affected. In a news release, the governor had this to say about the situation:

Today, I am issuing an emergency declaration to provide significant funding and resources to the communities experiencing red tide, so we can combat its terrible impacts. This includes making additional FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) biologists and scientists available to assist in clean-up and animal rescue efforts.

The governor went on to say that he would also put aside funding for the local businesses that had been hurt by the natural disaster. Apparently, tourism in the area has taken a sharp nosedive as most beachgoers don’t want to visit the beach when its shores are dotted with fish carcasses and inaccessible access, in some cases.

Can’t say we blame them on that one!

The many dangers of red tide blooms

Now, a state of emergency for a phenomenon that isn’t displacing people might seem like an overreaction, but when you take a look at the facts, it’s easy to see why Governor Scott was forced to make the declaration. On top of creating a noxious situation for beachgoers, red tide blooms kills a large amount of sea life, which can contribute to the destruction of ecosystems.

In this particular red tide bloom alone, scientists working on the cleanup and health education efforts estimate that a whopping 2,000 tons of wildlife have perished. Although the same thing happens annually along the Gulf Coast, this one is one of the worst ever experienced, having lasted an incredible 9 months.

Red tide blooms happen when the algae, Karenia brevis, begin populating quickly in certain areas. When this alga colonizes, it releases toxins which can suffocate sea life, such as fish, sea turtles, manatees, and even sharks.

But, what’s still scarier is that it can also have a dangerous effect on humans as well. When people come in contact with the algae, some suffer from respiratory irritation. In fact, in this situation, even people living inland have reported experiencing respiratory problems.

Scary stuff! We hope that Florida’s sea life and residents will be able to recover from this natural disaster soon! To learn more about this deadly red tide bloom and to see images from the most impacted beaches, be sure to watch the video below.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this state of emergency. Have you been to any of these beaches lately? If so, what was it like? Where is your all-time favorite Florida beach destination?