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Vern Buchanan visits Mote, discusses red tide; governor declares emergency

The congressman said more needs to be done to mitigate the effects of Karenia brevis.

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  • | 3:41 p.m. August 13, 2018
Buchanan said this one of the more intense bloom he's experienced in his 40 years of living on and off the water.
Buchanan said this one of the more intense bloom he's experienced in his 40 years of living on and off the water.
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U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan visited Mote Marine Laboratory on Monday for an update on red tide.

Earlier this month, Karenia brevis, the toxic red tide algae, began affecting Sarasota County beaches. However, this particular bloom has been around since October 2017. It formed 40 miles offshore of Sarasota and moved south toward Collier, Charlotte and Lee counties. Then it spread north.

Buchanan, who earlier this year was successful in passing legislation in Congress to fight red tide, said he’s hopeful Sarasota can benefit from the bill’s $8 million in funding. 

“We’re pushing for as much as we can get, for here and for Florida,” he said.

Red tide is a natural occurrence, but Buchanan said his personal opinion is other factors play into its growth, such as algae in Lake Okeechobee. Buchanan, who is a Longboat Key resident, said this bloom is more intense than those he has seen in 40 years living on and off the water.

“Not that we haven’t been serious, but we have spent the minimum amount of resources on this, and we’ve got to get serious,” he said.

Between Aug. 7-12, 11 dead bottlenose dolphins were recovered from Sarasota County waters. Necropsies have been conducted, but it could take months for the results to come back. Hayley Rutger, Mote’s content development manager, said red tide is suspected in those deaths.

As for respiratory irritation, Mote scientist Tracy Fanara said conditions haven’t changed much since the bloom appeared in coastal waters early this month.

“Areas have gone from intense to slight irritation, but that’s not saying it can’t jump back up,” she said.

Mote Research Associate Vice President Richard Pierce, who is awaiting results of red tide research involving ozone treatments in Boca Raton, said red tide conditions change daily. A lull one day does not mean the bloom is gone.

“The bloom is patchy,” he said. “It can go 30 miles offshore as well as onshore. It can go north. It can go south. ... [It can be] very intense along a patch of beach and five miles down the beach, you have almost nothing.”

Buchanan said  the effort to study red tide should be increased, as leaders have done for hurricane recovery and the citrus industry.

“I think we’ve been doing what we could in the past, but it’s not acceptable in terms of what we need,” Buchanan said. “We need more scientists, we need more answers. There’s still a lot of questions. It’s hard to fix a problem if you don’t know what the problem is.”

Although he had no specific number on the financial impact of this bloom, Buchanan said it must be a big number as tourists have other options of where to take their money.

“We think this is the best place on the planet, but we’ve got to make sure we keep it pristine, and we’ve got some work to do right now,” Buchanan said.

As of Aug. 10, K. brevis was found in very low to high concentrations in eight samples from Manatee County and very low to high concentrations in 29 samples from Sarasota County, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.





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