Fall arrives on AMI, fishing improves, red tide diminishes

Islanders are breathing a little fresh air.

Red tide has diminished in Manatee County.

And snowbirds, typically returning to their island homes in October, have begun to arrive.

The fishing reports from charter guides show remarkable improvement.

In week 10 of a red tide outbreak along the coast of Anna Maria Island, conditions showed concentrations of Karenia brevis fell in some areas.

Meanwhile, the harmful algal bloom made a rare appearance on the East Coast, resulting in six beach closures in Palm Beach County. Also, Miami-Dade County closed Haulover Beach Oct. 4.

The East Coast discovery of red tide caused a big stir.

It prompted more relief money from the state for assistance to areas dealing with red tide. Gov. Rick Scott announced an additional $3 million in grants from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for five East Coast counties.

Red tide also was present in the northern Panhandle, with fish kills occurring near Panama City, where fishers fretted over the oyster harvest and red tide’s consequences in Apalachicola Bay.

As conditions in Manatee County showed improvement, scientists continued to study one of the longest continuously recorded outbreaks of HAB since records began in 1953, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The FWC announced it is posting daily updates on red tide on an interactive map on its website, myfwc.com. The map uses results from water samples showing concentrations of red tide. Other maps will continue to be issued by the FWC on Wednesdays and Fridays

To further understanding of the HAB, the Florida Department of Health commissioned Mote Marine Laboratory researchers to investigate how far inland the toxin from red tide can travel.

Richard Pierce, a Mote scientist, is placing a dozen air samplers in Sarasota County — some as far as 10 miles inland. The machines vacuum and trap air particles to be analyzed for toxin levels.

Pierce said scientists hope to learn if reports of respiratory problems as far inland as Interstate 75 are the result of the airborne toxin traveling in the wind from the Gulf of Mexico.

The study also will take place in Pinellas and Lee counties, but no units were earmarked for Manatee County at press time Oct. 8.

Wildlife tolls continued to mount.

While no manatee, dolphin or turtle deaths believed to be the result of red tide were reported the week of Oct. 1 in the county, wildlife in Sarasota County suffered.

Six more manatee deaths were reported in Sarasota County, all believed to be related to red tide.

Close to Anna Maria Island, in Palma Sola Bay, a manatee herd frolicked Oct. 3 in the waters of the Portosueno boat basin — much to the delight of bystanders.

“I’m surprised to see them so active,” one woman remarked. “What with the red tide and all.”

FWC sampling continued to show clearing in and near the island. A midweek report dated Oct. 3 showed “generally decreased” areas in Manatee, parts of Sarasota and other counties to the south. High concentrations — greater than 1 million parts per liter — continued to march north and lingered in Lee and Sarasota counties.

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