Florida Red Tide: How you can help

Reshared from mote.org 

Many community members have asked how they can help address Florida red tide and its impacts. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your willingness to help!

Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit research institution, and our harmful algal bloom science has a significant focus on Karenia brevis (Florida red tide in the Gulf of Mexico), so our suggestions focus on supporting red tide research and wildlife response, and serving as environmental stewards.

Here are some ideas from the Mote team for how you can help:

  • Report when you experience respiratory irritation and see dead fish or discolored water (all potential indications of Florida red tide), using Mote’s free app, Citizen Science Information Collaboration (CSIC), available for iPhone and Android devices from the App Store and Google Play. Many of you are already using CSIC – we are grateful!  Since it is also important to know where red tide is not present, please be sure to submit a report even when you DO NOT see signs of red tide.
  • Report distressed sea turtles, dolphins or manatees to wildlife responders. When you do, *be specific* by providing detailed observations of how the animal looks and what it is doing, and take photos and video if possible. Report distressed or deceased wildlife anywhere in Florida to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) – 888-404-3922 – and in Sarasota and Manatee counties call Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program – 888-345-2335. Share these numbers with friends and loved ones who spend time on the coast.
  • To report fish kills, contact the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511 or submit a report online.
  • Ask your county and city governments how you can help. Sarasota County (where Mote is located) provides the website and app SeeClickFix to report multiple local issues. Report local fish kills (take and submit pictures) to this local resource (in addition to FWC’s hotline above) to support county monitoring and beach cleanups.
  • Take care of your watersheds (lands that drain into freshwater bodies and the sea), using tips from the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida to reduce storm water runoff that can carry nutrients and other chemical substances:
    Context: Though Florida red tide blooms form offshore, away from coastal influences, blooms that move to shore have the ability to use coastal nutrient sources, both natural and human-contributed. In addition, freshwater blooms of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), a different group than Florida red tide, are known to be directly influenced by excess nutrients entering waterways. The bottom line is that excess nutrients are bad for Florida’s coastal waters, estuaries and rivers and should be reduced.
  • Support the recovery of common snook, a popular sport fish affected by the 2017-2018 bloom of Florida red tide, by choosing to Adopt-A-Snook, which helps to support a snook restocking initiative by Coastal Conservation Association Florida, FWC and Mote.
  • If you have concerns or suggestions regarding government decisions on harmful algae, water quality and related subjects, contact the state and federal legislators in your region to provide your perspective. Offer science-based sources to back up your points.
    For example, a large collection of research related to Florida red tide and nutrients was published in recent years, including studies with Mote leaders and our partners. Here are references available from our colleagues at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

    Encourage state and federal elected official to provide consistent and target research and technology development funding to mitigate and control harmful algal blooms.
    You can also share your thoughts through government-provided opportunities for public comment. For example, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) website notes: “Staff has been hearing concerns about the status of various fisheries in Charlotte Harbor and is gathering feedback on the fisheries in that area.” Visit the Florida FWC Saltwater Comments page to submit a comment about Charlotte Harbor.

  • Tourism-related business can explore opportunities for assistance from Visit Florida.
  • Share science-based sources of information and updates on Florida red tide provided by various partners statewide:

    Red tide background info from Mote.

    Red tide and human health – information and rack cards from Florida Department of Health.

    Mote’s Beach Conditions Reporting System provides shoreline observations as often as twice daily.

    Mote’s CSIC app allows users to report when and where they experience respiratory irritation or see discolored water or dead fish — all potential indications of Florida red tide.

    FWC’s statewide red tide status reports (on abundance of the Florida red tide algae, Karenia brevis) are typically updated every Friday afternoon (with mid-week reports on Wednesdays).

    Based on statewide results, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides forecasts of potential respiratory irritation.

    FWC’s red tide offshore monitoring program – a way for volunteers to help.

    The joint FWC-Mote Facebook page, Florida Red Tide and Other Harmful Algal Blooms, provides updates and information about red tide.

  • If you have the ability, donate to Mote’s red tide research and wildlife response efforts. This support will help advance multiple studies and aid our wildlife responders who have rescued or recovered more than 230 sea turtles so far in 2018, and recovered more than 15 deceased dolphins in August 2018 alone – always with the goal of learning what happened to these animals to benefit conservation.

    Contingent on funding support, Mote and its partners envision implementing an independent Florida-based Marine and Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Center that will utilize innovative approaches and technologies to address Florida red tide and other HABs through rapid assessment and modeling for HAB forecasting; HAB prevention, control and mitigation of impacts; public health protection; and expansion of local community outreach and engagement.

    Decades of research has brought the scientific community to where it is today – with regularly updated red tide monitoring tools, short term forecasts, the ability to care for wildlife rescued alive after red tide exposure, and a growing array of technologies to monitor and potentially even mitigate Florida red tide and its impacts. We appreciate each and every person who as expressed the wish to support Florida red tide research and its benefits to coastal communities.

    At Mote, donations are made through our Development office: 941-388-4441, ext. 309.

  • Find the right points of contact for a given type of algal bloom or water issue. For example, if your primary concern is blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in Florida’s freshwater systems, you can reach out to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for information and to report those blooms.

    For Florida red tide, you can visit Mote’s Red Tide page or FWC’s Red Tide page for multiple resources on these ocean-dwelling blooms.