When will it ever end? Authorities not providing enough information on red tide

August 3, 2018
By Marcy Shortuse

When Lisa Haney and her husband, Mike, got to the Palm Island ferry landing on Tuesday night, July 31, they weren’t dressed for carrying manatees. That ended up being what happened though, as this particular sea cow was one of many that have been killed or made sick by red tide.
Lisa said that as they arrived at the ferry landing around 7 p.m. to go to their house on the island, she saw the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boat coming up to the ramp. She also saw that one of the officers on the boat had ahold of something over the side.
“As we stopped at the landing, I got out to see what was happening, and they had a manatee in a rescue sling off the side of the boat and were waiting for a truck,” she said.
The manatee was estimated at 11 feet long and approximately 1,000 pounds. It was still alive but definitely in distress.
When the FWC Marine Mammal Rescue truck arrived, Lisa and her husband, not to mention a handful of other people at the ferry landing, realized that the FWC officers were going to need a little help getting that manatee off the landing and into the truck.
“As a group, about six or seven of us had to lift it, then move it a foot. Then lift it, move it a foot. We finally got it on the lift gate of the truck,” she said.
The manatee was taken off to Sea World for rehabilitation. There are only a handful of marine mammal rescue facilities in this part of the state, and they are all getting full right now.
While the FWC did not return our phone calls or emails as of press time, their website shows six manatee deaths in Charlotte County for the month of June and 12 in Lee County in June. No numbers for July are available yet, but with many individual reports of numerous manatees found dead, those numbers are sure to be climbing.
As far as sea turtle numbers go, it could be approaching 300 dead for this season in the state of Florida, including 13 from Gasparilla Island. Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium reported 120 sea turtle deaths for Sarasota and Manatee counties this year, but that number is for all deaths, not just red tide.
Fish kill numbers are not listed on the FWC website, and Charlotte County authorities said in an email that “nobody has any data on fish kill numbers. It is neither tracked nor quantified.”
According to the FWC, red tide is present at some level (including background concentrations) from Pinellas County down to Collier County. The strongest concentration appears to be between southern Sarasota County and mid-Collier County.
The FWC water tests include a search for Karenia brevis, Pseudo-nitzschkia species and Pyrodinium bahamense. You can request data at HABdata@MyFWC.com.
For more information on algae blooms, the FWC directs you to a site that, as of press time, had no sample information north of Cape Coral.
Over the past week in Charlotte County, fish kills were reported in Bull Bay, at Englewood Beach and in Lemon Bay.
In Lee County, Cayo Costa and Gasparilla Island reported fish kills.
In regard to our “other” bacteria in the water – enteric – on July 23, samples that tested “poor” for enterococcus were taken at Sea Grape Beach, which is off Gulf Boulevard closer to the south end of the island. But that beach tested “good” on July 25. That was the last sample date available. Enteric bacteria come from inside the intestines of humans and other mammals and can make people very ill. Some will experience a rash.
The beach advisory regarding enteric bacteria will expire on August 10 unless it is reissued.
No other Boca Grande beaches were listed on the beach samples list, and the information pertained only to enterococcus.
In regard to an inquiry for general information from the Beacon to Charlotte County, Brian Gleason, communications manager for Charlotte County Board of County Commissioners, said, “Charlotte County is well aware of the recent red tide outbreak and has been working with the FWC to track the severity of the bloom and provide public notices as warranted. Charlotte County staff have regularly cleared fish from Englewood Beach on Manasota Key and coordinated additional solid waste collections on the island to assist local residents with their cleanup efforts on private beaches.”
He also said that the FWC collects red tide data from the following locations: Englewood Beach, Cape Haze Marina, Lear Road canal, Oberon Road canal, West Bay Heights Road, Boca Grande Pier, Don Quixote Drive, Vivante Boulevard, Placida Park Boat Ramp, Bay Point Drive, Ainger Creek Park Boat Ramp, Hog Island, Gasparilla Pass, Boca Grande Pass, Cayo Pelau, Tom Adams Bridge, Garfield Court (Placida Harbor), Catfish Creek, Sandfly Key, Bull Key, Blind Pass Beach (Lemon Bay side) and Stump Pass.
As a side note, you may have recently been hearing a term that is new to many ears, “red drift” algae. Red tide algae, K. brevis, are too small to be detectable by the human eye. Red drift does discolor the water sometimes with a reddish-brown hue. But the term “red drift” is not specific to one species, as its name describes a number of larger species of algae that can be seen with the human eye. They can be all different colors, from green to white, red or brown.
They occur naturally in the environment, according to Mote Marine Laboratory. This type of algae is not harmful, but it does stink when it decomposes.