So What is Red tide?
A "red tide" is a common term used for a harmful algal bloom. Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae—simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater—grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds. The human illnesses caused by HABs, though rare, can be debilitating or even fatal. While many people call these blooms 'red tides,' scientists prefer the term harmful algal bloom. One of the best known HABs in the nation occurs nearly every summer along Florida’s Gulf Coast. This bloom, like many HABs, is caused by microscopic algae that produce toxins that kill fish and make shellfish dangerous to eat. The toxins may also make the surrounding air difficult to breathe. As the name suggests, the bloom of algae often turns the water red. HABs have been reported in every U.S. coastal state, and their occurrence may be on the rise. HABs are a national concern because they affect not only the health of people and marine ecosystems, but also the 'health' of local and regional economies. But not all algal blooms are harmful. Most blooms, in fact, are beneficial because the tiny plants are food for animals in the ocean. In fact, they are the major source of energy that fuels the ocean food web. A small percentage of algae, however, produce powerful toxins that can kill fish, shellfish, mammals, and birds, and may directly or indirectly cause illness in people. HABs also include blooms of non-toxic species that have harmful effects on marine ecosystems. For example, when masses of algae die and decompose, the decaying process can deplete oxygen in the water, causing the water to become so low in oxygen that animals either leave the area or die.
Scientists at the National Ocean Service have been monitoring and studying this phenomenon for a number of years to determine how to detect and forecast the location of the blooms. The goal is to give communities advance warnings so they can adequately plan for and deal with the adverse environmental and health effects associated with these 'red-tide' events.
This is what they want you to see but others are thinking that another source is feeding the red tide bloom and making it stronger than normal. Many are pointing fingers at a florida lake. Many think the problem starts at Lake Okeechobee. After heavy rains, the Army Corps of Engineers released millions of gallons to relieve pressure on the lake's old earthen dam. But the water is chock full of chemicals and nutrients -- much of it runoff from commercial agriculture and sprawling development. When that mix bakes in the summer sun, the algae population explodes.
Biologist John Cassani has been collecting samples, and warning about the health hazards.
"The toxins the bacteria produce are incredibly potent. They affect liver function. There's neurotoxins that they produce so it's a suite of really toxic stuff that can kill wildlife and really impact people's health," Cassani said.
Once the algae starts to cover a waterway, it deprives it of oxygen, essentially sucking the life out of it. Wildlife like manatees can choke to death. Under water, the entire marine ecosystem is at risk.
So are waterside businesses. Sebastian Lahara held a mock funeral for his kayak rental operation, and Wittman said he has lost $20,000 on canceled trips this summer.
"This is going to take a lot of work and a lot of time to fix it," he said. "But it is fixable. These are man-made issues and man can fix them."
The federal government and the state have approved a $1.6 billion plan to clean and store some of the lake water, but it still has not been funded. Even the private sector is stepping in, offering a $10 million reward for the best plan to fix the problem.
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