Red Tide: What's Happening and What You Need to Know

I was born and raised in Pennsylvania. As many people know, Pennsylvania a state of steel, the Amish, and evergreen trees. However, two people I love dearly live in the sunshine state. My aunt and uncle spend their days at the beach and enjoying the beautiful weather in Florida. But Florida is not very beautiful right now. There is an outbreak of “Red Tide” filling the ocean right now. I noticed a lot of ignorance on this subject, so I decided to provide some much-needed information on what is happening in Florida.

(Note: I will be writing this without any political connotations. However, I do encourage you to research the politics revolving around the Red Tide situation in Florida).

1. What is Red Tide?

Red Tide is caused by algal blooms in our ocean. This algal bloom causes the water to discolor and become a sort of red color. Hence the name “Red Tide.” The algae also causes a depletion of oxygen in the water. Red Tide is normally caused by warm ocean surface temperatures, low salinity, high nutrient content, calm seas, and rain followed by sunny days during the summer months.

Image Credit: New Haven Register

2. How is Red Tide dangerous for humans?

The blooms of algae release a harmful material called brevetoxin. This can cause itching or burning in the lungs, throat, or eyes. This is clearly an issue for people with compromised respiratory systems such as people with asthma or the elderly. On top of that, doctors still aren’t sure what the long-term effects of breathing in the contaminated air may be. But that’s not the only way a human’s health can be affected by Red Tide. Seafood is a very popular cuisine in Florida. If a person eats a fish contaminated by Red Tide, they are at risk of consuming neurotoxins. This can lead to nausea, dizziness and partial paralysis.

 

3. How is Red Tide dangerous for animals?

Red Tide produces a neurotoxin that prevents sea life from being able to breathe. As of early October, at least a hundred manatees, a dozen dolphins, thousands of fish, 300 sea turtles, and more have died or washed along shores of Florida. Even a whale shark, the largest fish in the world, has been found dead: its body was riddled with neurotoxins caused by Red Tide.

Image Credit: WINK News

4. Isn’t the Red Tide just something natural? What makes this one so bad?

Yes, the Red Tide is normally a natural occurrence. However, this is the worst Red Tide since 2006. This Red Tide has been in bloom since last November. The Red Tide in 2006 lasted 18 months.

 

5. How is this Red Tide different?

Humans may be to blame for this year’s Red Tide. Run off from cattle farms and residential developments that lie north of Lake Okeechobee is feeding an algal bloom in the inland waterways of Florida. These algae are turning the water into a bright green sludge. The water from Lake Okeechobee eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Once the algae from the runoff dies, it releases nutrients that the Red Tide can feed off. This may be the cause of the elongation of the Red Tide. This is not the only way humans may be responsible for the Red Tide. The Everglades in Florida should act as a filtration system for the water that goes into the ocean. However, development of large sugar farms has hindered the natural flow and filtration system of the Everglades. This causes flooding in residential areas. To prevent this flooding, engineers have been instructed to release the contaminated waters into the estuaries (mouth of a river) that eventually release into the ocean. This Red Tide that Florida is experiencing is anything but natural.

 

We need to remember that this is our planet. There is no Planet B. We should take care of Earth just as she has taken care of us. If we continue to remain ignorant on topics such as the Red Tide, there is no telling how much time we have left before our beloved planet dies. Remember to stay informed and stay active in protecting our planet.

HCXO,

Gina