With federal funding to combat the Zika virus and the rise of heroin abuse more or less available now, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s focus has turned to the red tide outbreak that has infected the shores of Manatee and Sarasota counties for the past month.
Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, said in a news release that when he returns to Washington, D.C., next month, he’ll ask Congress to include money in the year-end government funding bill to research how red tide comes and goes and what ways it affects animals and humans in and around affected areas. He didn’t specify a funding amount.
As of Wednesday’s Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission red tide update, water samples taken from Manatee County show background to medium concentrations of the Karenia brevis phytoplankton, which in large amounts causes the toxic red tide. Manatee previously and consistently had high concentrations along its shore, but it could make a comeback since it’s in the water.
“Red tide is a clear and visible threat to the Suncoast’s environment and economy,” Buchanan said, adding that harmful algal blooms like red tide or the one caused by leaking tainted water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuaryn cause a loss of $82 million to the U.S. economy, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Red tide toxins become airborne and cause respiratory problems in humans and can be deadly to marine life, including birds and manatees, as fish kills in the thousands have been reported from Pinellas to Collier counties.
In the past, Buchanan was a co-sponsor of a bill that called for $90 million for research on harmful algal blooms, and he supported President Barack Obama’s authorization of $82 million for red tide research in 2014.
“Southwest Florida is a beautiful, vibrant place to live, and we need to take any threat to that standard of living seriously,” Buchanan said.