Red Tide: Making Waves in Southwest Florida

April 9, 2019 @ 7:00PM — 9:00PM

Dr. Paul Gray, Audubon Florida Lake Okeechobee Science Coordinator

Red Tide: Making Waves in Southwest Florida image

AWE April Evening Talk

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The whale shark is the largest fish in the world. It can grow to 40 feet in length and weigh tens of thousands of pounds. In July 2018, a 26-foot whale shark was found dead on Sanibel Island, its body riddled with the neurotoxin produced by tiny algae in the sea.

Marine scientists suspect the Karenia brevis algae was the culprit, a single-celled organism that's currently in a massive bloom cycle, also called red tide.

Since then, red tide off the shores of Collier and Lee Counties has claimed many victims turning our coastline into a rotting marine graveyard. A hundred manatees, dozens of dolphins, thousands -- perhaps millions of fish, 300 sea turtles, all have died in putrid-smelling masses. They were all likely felled by red tide.

Red tide is a normal, seasonal occurrence in Southwest Florida. But this year's red tide has persisted since November 2017, and may be more toxic than historic red tide — making it one of the worst blooms in recent history. It has gotten so bad that in August 2018, Florida Gov. Scott declared a state of emergency because the state's tourism industry has been hit hard by the persistent bloom.

Dr. Gray will explain the occurrence of red tide, what the future holds and what must happen to lessen this disaster.

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