Splotchy red tide on Manatee shores increases for weekend

Scientists warned it could happen.

Levels of red tide rose in Manatee County as the waters calmed in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s mid-week Oct. 24 report, high concentrations were found in Manatee and northern Sarasota counties, as well as Pinellas County. Fish kills and respiratory irritation also were reported in Manatee County.

The Mote Marine Laboratory daily beach report, which tracks red tide at area beaches, showed moderate respiratory irritation at Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, on the morning of Oct. 26, but no fish kills. Surface waters there had cooled to 82 degrees.

In Sarasota, philanthropists Andrew and Judith Economos invested $1 million in the Red Tide Institute at Mote, Mote announced Oct. 23 in a news release.

“We have faith in Mote Marine. We’re not seeing this from our government. We’re not seeing this from the feds. We’re not seeing this from the state,” Andrew Economos stated.

The money will fund the institute’s first year of operation and help with research and development of red tide mitigation.

On Anna Maria Island, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce did its part to assist local workers monetary contributions to red tide relief.

Money raised from a raffle basket of gifts from local businesses, funds from individuals and money from the chamber was enough to provide $50 checks to 380 applicants.

The workers applied to the chamber for assistance and checks were distributed Oct. 26 at CrossPointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach.

“We had more applicants than we expected,” chamber vice-president Cathy Pizzo said. “We are just happy to be able to help.”

Red tide’s regional impact on wildlife returned into focus.

The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation released a report Oct. 16 saying the long, lingering red tide bloom resulted in the largest number of sea turtle deaths ever attributed to a red tide event. The report covered the entire west Florida coastline suffering from the bloom, including Anna Maria Island.

So far, according to the SCCF report, 196 dead sea turtles have been recovered and another 46 have been placed in rehab from neurotoxin poisoning caused by the bloom. The previous 10-year average was 31 per year, according to the National Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.

Manatees fared no better. According to the FWC manatee mortality report, 714 manatees had died through Oct. 16, 27 of those in Manatee County waters. Red tide deaths were confirmed in 67 manatee deaths and suspected in 121 others through September, the FWC reported.

Like sea turtles and other marine mammals, manatees suffered from paralyzed respiratory systems caused by neurotoxins released by red tide.

In 2017, 538 manatees perished.

Of the total number of manatees living in Florida waters, estimated at 6,131 in January, more than 10 percent have died.