FWC: no easy solution to red tide control

Posted at 6:40 PM, Feb 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 18:40:25-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- High concentrations of red tide have been detected along the coasts of Lee and Charlotte counties in recent weeks, according to the latest data released by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

"Control of red tide is not a simple issue," said Kelly Richmond, a spokeswoman for FWC. "Presently, there's no practical and acceptable way to control or kill red tide blooms."

She said that the key words are "practical" and "acceptable." A method was used to try to kill red tide organisms off of Florida's west coast in 1958, by spraying an inorganic compound called copper sulfate - with unfortunate results.

"Although the copper sulfate killed some of the red tide cells, it led to the release of toxins that had negative effects on other marine organisms," Richmond said.

Since that time, she said that researchers have been looking for other ways to prevent red tide - so far, without success.

"Potential controls must not only kill the red tide organism, but they have to eliminate the toxins from the water," Richmond said.

For people who make their living on the water, such as charter fishing captain Jason Miller of Cape Coral, they can only hope that the red tide levels drop soon, or go away altogether.

"In the past two weeks, I've lost six trips," Miller said. "And that's just the month of February."