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Understanding Red Tide: what it is and what it's doing to our environment

Sarasota and other Gulf Coastal locations have been suffering greatly lately due to red tide. While this phenomenon has been going on for numerous years, not many know much about it.

Here at Riverview, students may think they know a lot regarding red tide and how it kills many fish and other sea life. But, the reality is even scientists do not know enough about this occurrence.

This affects everyone living by the Gulf negatively, and even just going into the courtyard of Riverview there is that smell of dead fish.

There are also many misconceptions regarding this naturally occurring event, while some completely blame human interference, others say people have nothing to do with it; the population has some cause as to why red tide is so severe.

Mrs. Rudge is an expert regarding red tide and gave some insight into the causes and effects of this problem.

“Red tide is a naturally occurring event when a microorganism known as Karenia brevis starts to grow when conditions are correct. K. brevis carries a toxin which kills fish when the number of individual dinoflagellates gets over 100K per liter. At this point it is considered a “Harmful Algal Bloom” because it harms wildlife including fish, sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, seabirds. It causes throat irritation in humans along with teary eyes and runny nose.”

When the microorganism begins to grow, it never smells bad, all the bad scents smelt during red tide is the dead sea life. This organism also kills wildlife very rapidly, which results in large amounts of the animals washing up along the beaches.

“There is a connection between what we do on our properties such as fertilizing lawns or plants in our yards and fertilizer runoff to Sarasota Bay. Lawns are not natural in Florida (think of Myakka or Oscar Sherer State Park and what they vegetation looks like).” Rudge said.

While people are not completely the cause for this happening, they do not help to improve it. Both humans and animals experience respiratory distress from the growth of this microorganism, and there are no apparent benefits from this yearly event.

“Yes, it is a natural event and people are correct in saying that, but we have certainly contributed to the severity and length of time it hangs around and continues to kill fish.

It has been a tragic month and it will take Sarasota Bay and the Gulf Coastal areas (130-mile stretch!) a long time to recover. It will in time.” She said.

Scientists have not gathered enough data concerning red tide to come up with certain solutions and claims to help diminish it, mostly due to issues regarding funding needed to do the research.

“Some of the data collection during the red tide events is not always funded – it takes a year turnaround to get a grant to do research, so some of the data collection has “holes” which makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly what is happening. It becomes a mysterious event with many unanswered questions. I am hopeful that this very severe event will raise enough public concern to support more targeted research.” Rudge said.

This is a very important topic to be educated about, because it effects everyone here at Riverview, and along the Gulf coast of Florida.

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