The people who live along the coastal areas of southwest Florida are currently experiencing a situation that is detrimental to their health and to the health of those animals that call the waters their home. Red tide has invaded the coastal waterways of the area. Some red tide has been reported in the intercoastal waterways and up the channel of some of the area’s rivers.
Red tide is caused by an algae bloom that has several effects on animals and people. When the algae blooms, it turns the waters a reddish color. The algae in the water literally sucks the oxygen out of the water, so fish are not able to breathe. Multitudes of dead fish have been washing up on Florida beaches and waterways. The smell is overwhelming in some areas.
Several large sea creatures have been washing up on the shore. One whale shark that is 26-feet in length has been found dead. Dolphins have been found sickened on some beaches, and attempts are being made to try and restore these sea mammals back to health.
People are also becoming sick as a result of the red tide. The toxins produced by the algae bloom can aerosolize in the atmosphere. When people breathe in these particles, they can have difficulty breathing. Those who have asthma may be especially affected by red tide.
The governor of Florida has declared a state of emergency in the area. He has pledged a significant amount of money to combat the problem and help clean up the putrid beaches filled with dead fish.
Red tide is becoming much more of problem than it has in recent years. Many believe that this is due in part to global climate change. Since the late 1970s, the average water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico has risen by two degrees. Warmer water allows for faster algae growth.
Another probable cause of red tide is agricultural and residential use of fertilizers. Fertilizers contain nitrogen and phosphorus. These substances can be washed into rivers and then into the Gulf waters. These substances are nutrients for the algae causing it to overgrow.
Local business owners are hoping that the red tide will abate soon. Tourists are leaving the area in droves as they are put off by the smell and by respiratory issues.