SARASOTA -- The red tide bloom remains offshore of Florida’s Gulf Coast, and no impacts have been detected alongshore this week as of Wednesday, according to a team of scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Mote Marine Laboratory and the University of South Florida who continue to monitor the bloom.
According to the last clear satellite images as of Aug. 8, the bloom was reported to be patchy, up to 60 miles wide and 90 miles long, and at least 20 miles offshore between Dixie and northern Pinellas counties.
Recent forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides show slow south-southeast movement of the surface bloom parallel to the coastline, and slow southeast movement of deep waters. Waldo was recovered by Mote staff on a boat about 15 miles off Pinellas County after he finished zig-zagging south over 140 miles from the central part of the bloom to beyond the southern edge last shown by satellite images.
Waldo monitored conditions such as water temperature, salinity and depth and used a red tide detector called an “optical phytoplankton discriminator” or “BreveBuster” developed at Mote to support short-term red tide forecasting by USF and FWC.
Basic data was sent to Mote during the mission via Waldo’s satellite transmitter, and more detailed analyses will be carried out at Mote to understand what other types of microscopic algae were present along with the red tide algae.
With Waldo safely on board, the Mote team collected water samples and data including temperature, depth, salinity and chlorophyll at multiple locations between the endpoint of Waldo’s mission and Mote’s main Lab on City Island, Sarasota. Samples will be analyzed in the coming days to count any red tide algae cells.
The USF robot “Bass” is still on patrol along the eastern edge of the bloom, collecting physical and optical data to support forecasting. Bass will look at deep waters of the bloom to better describe its southern boundary.
Mote and FWC scientists to keep watch on southwest Florida waters south of the bloom’s last known edge offshore of northern Pinellas County because recent forecasts suggest it will move slowly south and southeast parallel to the coast.
On Tuesday, Mote and FWC scientists plan to collect water samples and additional data by boat from multiple locations along southwest Florida’s coast. This sampling trip is part of the FWC-Mote Cooperative Red Tide Program. Together, FWC and Mote sampling efforts will cover a wider swath of ocean and provide more types of data for research at both institutions.
Mote and FWC will sample from 16 coastal sites and four offshore sites between Tampa Bay in Pinellas County and San Carlos Bay in Lee County. FWC will cover a northern group of stations and Mote will cover a southern group.
At all locations, the researchers will collect temperature, depth and conductivity data (to measure salinity) and gather water samples to count red tide algae cells. At select locations, additional data will be collected on other factors that relate to blooms, including waterborne nutrients, toxins, and pigments to understand what types of microscopic algae are present.