Red tide poisoning Gulf of Mexico? – 10/25/2005

  • November 22, 2013 at 3:20 am #1066

    from bridget
    Hi All
    This statement is pretty silly. because by my count we have seen
    this continuously for about 5-6 months. “””They also have to wait
    until the bloom dissipates, and that could take several weeks.”””
    Red tide poisoning Gulf of Mexico beaches
    By Jim Stratton
    CLEARWATER, Fla. — The last time Janine Cianciolo slipped into the
    waters off Clearwater Beach, she wondered whether something was
    wrong with her eyes.

    Instead of finding the bright reds and yellows of reef life, she saw
    only the sickly grays of a seascape tainted by toxic algae known as
    red tide.

    “We were shooting with color film,” said Cianciolo, a dive
    instructor and veterinarian at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. “But when
    we looked at it, it was like we were using black and white. There
    was no color. Everything was dead.”

    It has been that way for months, ever since one of the worst red-
    tide outbreaks of recent history crept into the Gulf of Mexico early
    this year.

    The poisonous algae produce a potent nerve toxin and ultimately rob
    the water of oxygen. The algae kill sea life and make some people
    feel sick. Red tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon that has
    been reported for more than 100 years. Recently, outbreaks have
    seemed more severe, although it’s unclear why.

    Since January, red tide has killed tens of thousands of fish, crabs,
    birds and other small creatures. It has killed at least 66 manatees
    and 34 dolphins, and sickened almost 180 sea turtles, most of which
    have died.

    The bloom has chased tourists from the beach, leaving them with sore
    throats, a hacking cough and a headache that subsides only when they
    get away from the water.

    It has appeared as far south as Collier County, Fla., and as far
    north and west as Pensacola Beach. Early this month, it surfaced in
    Apalachicola, forcing the closure of oyster beds along the Florida
    Panhandle. The algae contaminate shellfish, making them dangerous to

    “It’s just been horrible this year,” said Jon Johnsen, owner of Fun
    & Sun Parasail on Anna Maria Island. “We’ve all been suffering
    through it.”

    Johnsen’s anxiety is typical of many small businesses along the
    Gulf. They rely on sunshine, sugary beaches and sparkling water to
    lure a steady stream of tourists. Red tide can effectively knock out
    two-thirds of that equation.

    “They want to come here and enjoy the water,” said Johnsen, who has
    spent more than 30 years on the Gulf. “Last week, I had two women
    leave after they saw the dead fish. I can’t blame them. Nobody wants
    to see or smell a bunch of dead fish.”
    Local governments know that. On days with severe red tide, they
    clean the beaches of dead fish and crabs that wash ashore.
    Sometimes, a few employees can handle the job. Sometimes, they need
    a backhoe and a front-end loader.

    “It can be really bad,” Johnsen said. “One day, it was like a fish
    house showed up and dumped their whole stock on the beach. I just
    sat on that picnic table and cried.”

    Red tide forms when tiny, single-celled algae called Karenia brevis
    begin multiplying out of control. The algae produce a nerve toxin
    lethal to fish and other sea life. But the toxin is only part of the

    As creatures die and decompose, they produce bacteria that suck
    oxygen from the water. Animals that survived the toxin often
    suffocate from the lack of oxygen.

    As the algae bloom moves toward shore, waves, wind and boat
    propellers vaporize the toxin, driving it into the air. The
    resulting vapor can irritate a beach-goer’s eyes, nose and throat.
    Gulf lifeguards have fact sheets they hand out to visitors who ask
    about the tide. It warns people with conditions such as asthma or
    emphysema to avoid beaches plagued by red tide.

    The trouble is, no one can predict when a bloom will show up. That
    would require an extensive monitoring system of sensors throughout
    the Gulf. Today, only a few monitors are in place, and adding enough
    to predict and track red tide would cost tens of millions of dollars.
    Clearwater Marine Aquarium has become an urgent-care center for
    animals poisoned by the bloom. Since August, it has been called to
    help more than 100 sea turtles. Now, aquarium workers are trying to
    rehabilitate eight turtles, including a 353-pound loggerhead named

    Cianciolo, the aquarium’s vet, said the algae paralyze turtles,
    making it impossible for them to surface and breathe. At the
    aquarium, they’re kept in shallow pools to prevent them from
    drowning. The sickest are simply covered with wet towels because
    they can’t lift their heads at all.

    Percy can now raise his massive head, but he remains lethargic and
    must be fed by hand. Sam, the turtle one pool over, is in worse
    shape. He can’t open his mouth, so workers must use a small plastic
    tool to pry his mouth open. Then they quickly shove bits of squid

    “They have to get their strength back,” said Tammy Langer, who
    supervises the turtles’ rehabilitation. “We can’t release them until
    we know they can feed on their own.”

    They also have to wait until the bloom dissipates, and that could
    take several weeks.

    “Our big question is, ‘Is the red tide gone?’ ” Cianciolo
    said. “Until then, these guys stay with us.”

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