If the red tide wreaking havoc on Tampa Bay and resulting in enormous fish fatalities does not clear up soon, scientists worry that the bay could become a "dead zone."
Huge Quantities of Dead Fishes
According to NPR, the solid waste division of Pinellas County, where Tampa Bay is located, has collected 600 tons of dead marine life since late June.
Maya Burke of Pinellas County told NPR, "The bay is really struggling right now." "There are huge quantities of dead fish all the way up and down the food chain, from little forage fish to tarpon, manatees, and dolphins... So if it's swimming in the bay, it's washed up dead right now."
According to The Associated Press, more than 100 demonstrators marched along the St. Petersburg shoreline on Saturday in response to the destruction. Demonstrators demanded that Republican Governor Ron DeSantis proclaim a state of emergency to give funding to solve the situation.
"This is not a political demonstration," protest organizer Aimee Conlee said at the rally. "This is the way things are. Water is life, and water is water."
Last week, the St. Petersburg City Council endorsed the request with a resolution, but DeSantis has maintained that the state's Department of Environmental Protection has adequate money without a declaration.
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According to The Smithsonian, red tides are generated by an excess of the algae Karenia Brevis. According to The Associated Press, these algae are found naturally in Mexico's Gulf, but it is exacerbated by nutrient pollution.
According to NPR, these blooms are rare in Tampa Bay during the summer months. Instead, they usually start in the fall and go through January. The previous major summer red tide epidemic occurred in 2018, and this year's outbreak appears to be far worse.
NOAA oceanographer Richard Stumpf told NPR, "This is not normal." "It's not good that it's been three years since the previous one."
Three months have passed since a massive leak at a phosphate plant wastewater pond in the Piney Point reservoir near Tampa Bay. According to experts, contaminants from the leak may be aggravating the tide, but they are unlikely to be the source.
"I don't believe the red tide was caused by Piney Point," Tom Frazer, Florida's former top science officer and a professor and dean at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, stated in a public debate according to WUSF. "One of the first things we saw with the red tide was that it was south of the discharge region, with the red tide migrating or moving northward into lower Tampa Bay."
Other Possible Origins
Other possible origins of the epidemic, according to him, are septic tank runoff, stormwater systems, and agricultural or lawn fertilizer.
According to NPR, winds from Tropical Storm Elsa earlier this month may have boosted the amount of fish washing up dead on the shore. According to The Independent, Pinellas County and St. Petersburg officials stated they retrieved nine tons of fish in 24 hours following the storm.
Affecting Human's Health
Red tides may also be harmful to people's health by exacerbating the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Moreover, scientists warn that, as a result of the climate catastrophe, these occurrences may get substantially worse, as warmer seas promote algae and more severe precipitation events increase runoff and nutrient contamination.
"We are at a crossroads about controlling harmful algal blooms because of climate change, and we must aggressively tackle the problem before it becomes so difficult that we are faced with the option of allowing these micro-organisms to go unchecked in many ecosystems," experts warned in a 2015 letter published in Environmental Science & Technology.
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