Mote Marine, partners take on red tide

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A cell of Karenia brevis, the species responsible for red tide. Islander Photo: Courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory

Armed with scientific minds and willing partners, red tide, Karenia brevis, knowledge is advancing.

Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota is a research institution that has studied red tide for decades.

It’s known what the common algae can do when fueled by proper weather conditions and stormwater runoff from agriculture and development. What is not known is how to halt red tide.

Mote has teamed up with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other partners to answer hard questions about red tide. The Florida Gulf Coast from Tampa Bay southward has been studied, with scientists hoping to improve assessment, forecasting, control and mitigation of red tide.

Since the current bloom began in October 2017, scientists have collected water samples, studied red tide cell counts and monitored K. brevis and 200 other organisms found in local waters.

They are testing “living dock” structures with attached filter-feeding organisms that remove red tide from limited areas and assessing an ozonation process Mote currently uses at it Mote Aquarium and marine life hospitals, which destroys red tide before entering seawater tanks.

Mote scientists are researching whether certain seaweeds containing natural compounds might be helpful to fight blooms in the wild — and they have been successful in the lab.

Throughout the latest red tide outbreak, Mote has remained active in the rescue and recovery of marine life vulnerable to red tide.

Since the beginning of 2018, Mote has rescued or recovered 131 sea turtles, of which “sizeable portion” has been affected by the neurotoxins of red tide, according to Mote.

By developing better red tide detection instruments, Mote hopes to get an upper hand on predicting red tide. It’s just one piece in the puzzle of the problem, as Mote scientists and partners continue to understand the organism able to decimate wildlife and empty beaches.

For more information, go to mote.org/redtide and myfwc.com/redtide. For a red tide report at your beach, go to visitbeaches.org for a beach condition overview.

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