ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis hosted a roundtable Thursday morning with the Red Tide Task Force, discussing mitigation efforts and the future of technology that could help.
The task force was reorganized in 2019 and its efforts are supported by the Center for Red Tide Research at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, according to the governor. The group is comprised of scientists and researchers who continue to work toward developing technology and other approaches to control red tide and its impact on the state.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Executive Director Eric Sutton said communication is a key element to be able to progress with efforts statewide and despite the task force being back up and running for less than two years, there is significant progress.
“We’ve expanded our ability to sample a lot of different markers so you have more sample locations, more accuracy,” he said. “Great leaps in technology has helped us.”
The researchers at the roundtable discussed the work on technology to help alleviate the possible red tide impacts on Florida’s tourism economy, such as developing a widget for shellfishermen to take a water sample and identify the concentration of toxin.
“It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon, there’s no silver bullet,” Dr. Michael Crosby, president and CEO of the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium said. “But what we can use is the knowledge that we use to develop innovative technologies to decrease the impacts of red tide.”
Crosby said the initiative will be able to develop technologies to deploy to various Florida cities to build a tool chest that would be deployed when it comes to combating red tide. He described the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico as a “highly productive area” and red tide comes in when the currents are right and “it takes advantage of the nutrient” that naturally occurs there.
“We can predict a hurricane much more easily than we’re going to be able to forecast red tide and that’s because a hurricane is built primarily on physical areas. Red tide includes the chemical aspects of the right nutrients and there are over a dozen different nutrients that red tide utilizes,” Crosby said.
He also said red tide is “easy to kill,” but it’s not that simple.
“How do you decrease the impacts of red tide while not causing further harm to the environment because the environment is what it’s all about. The culture of this state, the economy of this state is all built on this environment,” he said.
The task force will receive $3 million each year for six years as part of Senate Bill 1552 that was signed in 2019. For more information, click here.
The discussion follows DeSantis’ news conference in Pensacola in which he committed Florida’s support to help Texas and Arizona’s efforts to secure the U.S. border. DeSantis fired shots at the Biden administration, saying the influx of illegal immigration and the repercussions that have impacted Florida are due to poor leadership.