Florida Gov. Rick Scott Declares Emergency Over Red Tide Outbreak

While environmentalists argue pollution worsened the outbreak, the emergency order defines red tide as "naturally occurring"

What to Know

  • The current red tide has lasted for about 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, dolphins and manatees.
  • The emergency declaration will affect the counties of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas.
  • Two different types of harmful algal bloom are affecting Florida's waters: red tide and a freshwater algae outbreak.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency in some counties due to the red tide outbreak that has killed wildlife and threatened public health.

Though red tide occurs naturally nearly every year, many environmental organizations argue that pollution has exacerbated the toxic algae bloom.

Scott's emergency Executive Order Number 18-221 declaration describes red tide as a "naturally occurring microscopic alga that has been documented along Florida's Gulf Coast since the 1840s and occurs nearly every year."

Florida has been grappling with one of the longest-lasting red tide outbreaks in history that has affected more than 100 miles of beaches.

Dead marine animals that have washed up on beaches this summer include fish, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and at least one whale shark.

Scott's emergency declaration will be in effect for the counties of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas. 

“As Southwest Florida and the Tampa Bay area continues to feel the devastating impacts of red tide, we will continue taking an aggressive approach by using all available resources to help our local communities," Scott said in a statement.

The executive order signed by Scott will provide funding to local governments and research agencies.

Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium will receive $100,000 to increase its response to red tide impacts by deploying more scientists to assist local efforts to save animals.

Funds will also be used to continue "enhanced water monitoring" to give "scientists the best possible data to work with," according to the statement.

Two different types of harmful algal bloom are affecting Florida's waters: red tide and a freshwater algae outbreak – known as blue-green algae – that is caused by fertilizer runoff.

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