State of emergency declared in Florida due to toxic red tide

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Florida's iconic manatee - the docile marine mammals that gave rise to the mermaid legend - are also being killed at the rate of 10 a day, a devastating death toll for a creature classified as Vulnerable on the Red List of Threatened Species. A portion of emergency funding ordered by the governor is earmarked for assessing impacts on that fish.

FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote are working together to monitor Karenia brevis - the organism that creates the harmful algal blooms that multiply to higher-than-normal concentrations, known as red tide. That will push red tide northward along beaches on Florida's coastline. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, these toxic algal blooms happen almost every summer along the Gulf Coast.

The findings could help water managers make better decisions about how much water to release from the lake. Lee County will use this additional funding to enhance the county's efforts to clean local waterways from impacts caused by red tide.

Red Tide killing sea life, causing sickness along Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Irma made landfall in September 2017 in two Florida locations only to be followed by the beginning of the red tide.

Scott is ordering $100,000 for additional scientists to help with clean-up efforts and another $500,000 to help local communities and businesses struggling with lost income as tourists flee.

"We are beginning to develop a strategy for presenting a comprehensive approach for targeted response to the current red tide and its impact and very targeted areas of research", Dr. Crosby said.

The area is no stranger to red tide events.

Despite the long history of red tides in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists don't know what causes them to persist. Skin irritation, swollen lips, eye irritation, earaches and sore throats are other symptoms people can experience if they swim in water during a blue-green bloom, although swimming or any other contact with the water is not recommended.

"We're beginning the season when the blooms occur, so it's likely that it's gonna stick around for a while", Dortch said.

Red tides occur on an nearly yearly basis off Florida, starting out in the Gulf of Mexico where swarms of microscopic algae cells called Karenia brevis feed on deep-sea nutrients and are sometimes carried by currents close to shore, usually in the fall. "There could be an indirect relationship between that and the red tide", Weisberg said.