Red tide blooms have hit Southwest Florida hard in recent weeks.
The toxic algae causes fish kills, respiratory issues and contributes to several dozen manatee deaths each year.
That’s why U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, says he sponsored legislation that will add $8 million to combat the blooms.
Buchanan’s measure was passed by Congress as part of a government funding bill.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“Red tide poses a serious threat to our environment, marine life and economy,” Buchanan said, adding that his legislation will allow for greater research with the goal of reducing the problem. “We need to understand more about the toxins in red tide so we can stop the damaging effects.”
Fish kills were recently reported at several beaches along the Southwest Florida coast, including last week at Manasota Beach. Respiratory irritations also became a factor at many of the same sites, including Manasota Beach from March 9-16, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The harmful blooms cause about $82 million in economic losses to the seafood, restaurant and tourism industries each year in the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says.
Buchanan’s legislation increases funding for NOAA to research harmful algae blooms like red tide.
His legislation, according to a news release, was included in an appropriations bill that funds the federal government through September 2018. President Donald Trump signed the funding bill into law on Friday.
Dr. Michael P. Crosby, president of Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, said the increased NOAA funding will “significantly bolster the scientific community’s research to detect, respond to and develop innovative technologies to lessen the impacts from some of the country’s most challenging harmful algal blooms — red tide — on our environment, marine life and human health. We appreciate Congressman Buchanan’s relentless attention to this important issue for our region,” according to the release.
The harmful blooms occur when colonies of algae grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds.
Human consumption of shellfish contaminated by red tide areas can cause several illnesses.
Additionally, those who swim in red tide or inhale the toxins while near the water can also suffer from respiratory issues and, in some cases, asthma attacks for susceptible individuals, NOAA says.