Warning: Distressing Content
Florida has declared a state of emergency after a toxic bloom of algae, known as red tide, has spread throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
The red tide is a naturally occurring event, however it is exacerbated by sewage and fertiliser pollution from farms, and this year’s red tide is bigger and has lasted longer than in previous years.
The toxic bloom in the sea has made breathing difficult for those living in the area, as well as driving away tourists, affecting income for local businesses and killing countless fish and marine life.
Florida governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in seven counties, stretching from Tampa Bay south to the Everglades, and promised $1.5 million in emergency funding, reports The Washington Post.
Residents have reported respiratory problems from vapours coming off the red tide, making breathing difficult for those in the affected area.
Worst of all, massive amounts of fish and other sea creature have been washing up on the shore due to the ‘lethally high concentrations of algae’.
Dr Richard Bartleson, a scientist with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, said:
There’s no fish left. Red tide killed them all. All of our concentrations of red tide are still high and would still kill fish if they were out there.
Videographer Ivy Yin, from Our Children’s Earth Foundation, traveled to various beaches along Florida’s coast on July 30 and 31.
She captured footage of a dead endangered loggerhead turtle in Captiva, a lifeless manatee floating in the water in Cape Coral and thousands of fish that perished in the ocean because of the algal bloom.
Dr Bartleson added:
This Red Tide Event has been prolonged by human activities such as farming, development and manufacturing.
Over the past number of years, the build up of chemicals such as phosphorus and nitrogen, among other elements typically found in fertiliser have provided the perfect nutrients to worsen the bloom.
Heather Barron, head of the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife Veterinarian Hospital on Sanibel, said the red tide outbreak has collided with the height of sea turtle reproduction.
Normally red tide season is over in April. But now sea turtle nesting is at its peak, and you have adults in nearshore waters. And because of that they’re being effected.
Though red tides are a natural occurrence, they have been seemingly increasing in length and severity since the 1950s and 1960s. Scientists are trying to understand why this is, especially around Florida’s gulf coast.
Ivy Yin, who recorded the video, said:
The unprecedented loss of life is being caused by a red tide event that is far beyond historic or natural levels due to ongoing sewage and fertilizer pollution.
There is no escape for these animals from the effects of human indifference, poor resource management, and climate change.
Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement:
We will continue taking an aggressive approach by using all available resources to help our local communities. 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.
The efforts to deal with the red tide are ongoing.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.