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Gov. Scott declares state of emergency for Manatee over red tide. But help might be on the way

Congressman Vern Buchanan addresses rampant red tide

On Monday U.S. Rep Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, held a news conference with researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota to discuss efforts to mitigate rampant red tide plaguing the southwest coast.
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On Monday U.S. Rep Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, held a news conference with researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota to discuss efforts to mitigate rampant red tide plaguing the southwest coast.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for the Gulf Coast, from Tampa Bay to Naples, due to rampant red tide.

The order is in effect for Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee and Pinellas counties.

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“As Southwest Florida and the Tampa Bay area continues to feel the devastating impacts of red tide, we will continue taking an aggressive approach by using all available resources to help our local communities,” the governor said in a statement. “Today, I am issuing an emergency declaration to provide significant funding and resources to the communities experiencing red tide so we can combat its terrible impacts.”


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The emergency funding, the governor said, includes more than “$100,000 for Mote Marine Laboratory and $500,000 for VISIT FLORIDA to establish and emergency grant program to help local communities continue to bring in the visitors that support so many Florida families and businesses.”

It will also make additional FWC biologists and scientists available to assist in cleanup and animal rescue efforts, officials said.

An ongoing red tide is killing wildlife throughout Florida’s southwest coast and has left beaches littered with dead fish, sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark. Additional footage courtesy of Southwest Florida TV via Facebook.

Earlier Monday U.S. Rep Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, held a news conference with researchers at Mote to discuss efforts to mitigate red tide.

The proposed technology is an ozone treatment system that Mote scientists already use to remove red tide cells and toxins from seawater that enters the facility. The method, scientists say, uses ozone to destroy and kill red tide and its toxins inside a system that released no ozone into the environment and restores oxygen that is often scarce in Florida red tide areas.

The technology, however, is designed for areas of limited size and tidal flow, such as dead-end canals and small embayments — not oceans. Still, researchers say, red tide algae, its toxins, and the resulting dead fish often flow to and accumulate in these areas.

“It’s a new technique for restoring limited areas, for example canals, from red tide conditions to one that is back to normal,” Mote Senior Scientist Dr. Richard Pierce said Monday. “

Mote has tested the system with red tide-stricken seawater in a 25,000-gallon pool.

“Results showed that, with one ozone system processing 150 gallons of water per minute, the red tide algae cells in the pool were wiped out rapidly and their toxins cleared in approximately one day,” laboratory officials said in a news release.

“We use one already at the aquarium and we wanted to see if we can take that system in a limited space like a canal and see if we can clear red tide cells, and we are going to be testing that this week,” Mote spokeswoman Hayley Rutger said.

On Tuesday, Mote scientists will field-test the technology in a closed end of a canal in Boca Grande.

Buchanan sponsored legislation earlier this year that will add $8 million to combat the toxic algae bloom, known as Karenia brevis. The measure was passed by Congress as part of a government funding bill.

Buchanan’s bill increases funding for NOAA to research harmful algae blooms like red tide. The congressman said he hopes to know how much of the $8 million will go to Florida in the coming days.

“We’re still working on that but I want to get as much as I can into this region and we’re pushing for that and I hope to know very soon. We’re expecting an answer any day,” Buchanan said at the news conference. “Mote has a good working relationship (with NOAA) and I think they are going to get a big piece of that pie.”

Overall, Buchanan said, answers need to be given and something has to be done.

“We need more scientists, we need more answers. There’s still a lot of questions,” Buchanan said. “I’ve heard for many years of red tide being a natural occurrence, and I’m sure that’s the case (for) hundreds of years, but I think there are things aggravating a lot of this and we’ve got to get serious about it. Because it affects animals and tourism and (the) value of real estate. We’ve got to get whatever resources we need and I think we’ll do it on a bipartisan basis. I think enough is enough.”

At least 500 people gathered on Anna Maria Island Sunday morning as part of the statewide “Hands Along the Water" event. Over 30 Florida beaches had demonstrations, which lasted 15 minutes, to bring awareness to the devastating red tide.

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