Can devastation from red tide be mitigated? Legislators look to Mote Marine for answers

Bills filed in both the Florida House and Senate on Thursday seek to provide a total of $15 million over five years to Mote Marine to fund consistent research in how to mitigate the damaging effects of red tide.

House majority whip Rep. Michael Grant introduced the House bill and Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, introduced a similar version in the Florida Senate.

The bills would establish the Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative.

“The biggest issue with red tide is out of sight and out of mind,” Gruters said. “Funding tanks as soon as it goes offshore and what we need to do is have a consistent funding source for five years so they can put together what they need to figure out how to mitigate red tide. You can’t stop it, but we know man-made pollution contributes, so we can do a better a job.”

Municipalities along Florida’s west coast have voted red tide mitigation as their top legislative priority, and Gruters said for good reason.

“Everyone in the bay area understands the importance of this issue and I think we are united, Republican and Democrat, to get something done,” Gruters said. “In the 41 years I’ve lived in Sarasota I have never seen it this bad to our marine life and the economic impact.

“This won’t be a magic bullet, but we can do a good job to make sure we are well prepared so when the challenges of red tide are here again, hopefully we have a way to make it not as bad.”

Grant said the legislation supports the “best scientific minds by augmenting their red tide mitigation research and technology development, and empowering our communities with the ability to fight the next potential outbreak.”

The funding will help bring some of the best and brightest minds into the battle to test new technologies that hope to be effective and ecologically sound.

Dr. Michael P. Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine said the initiative, if funded, “will be a game-changer for the region. This initiative will not only utilize applied science and innovation to fight Florida red tide, but will also stimulate Florida’s economy through technology transfer that helps transform ecological challenge to economic opportunity.”

The prolonged red tide event that began in October 2017 and only recently ended produced statewide partnerships in trying to figure out how to mitigate red tide. The funding will help spur those partnerships to reach the ultimate solution, but what does mitigation look like?

That’s the $15 million question that can’t be answered at this point. But, “We have to take care of our environment,” Gruters said.

“How lucky are we to have Dr. Crosby and Mote in our own backyard? We were at the forefront of this disaster and are lucky to have them and Senate President Bill Galvano leading the senate, who understands the importance of water quality.”

Gruters said he is “cautiously optimistic” the bills will pass the house and senate.

“Any time you are asking for $3 million a year for five years, it’s a lot of money. I’m hopeful we’ll get it,” he said. “We have to have continued research and Dr. Crosby said with funding for five years, he will come up with a solution.

“This is not about dollars, but a real world solution.”

Breaking News/Real Time Reporter Mark Young began his career in 1996 and has been with the Bradenton Herald since 2014. He has won more than a dozen awards over the years, including the coveted Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting from the Florida Press Club and for beat reporting from the Society for Professional Journalists to name a few. His reporting experience is as diverse as the communities he covers.
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