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How Red Tide is affecting Sanibel restoration and water quality

After weeks of water quality slowly getting better, Sanibel is now being affected by red tide blooms
Posted at 6:13 PM, Nov 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-18 18:13:09-05

SANIBEL, Fla. — Many beaches around Southwest Florida have been closed for weeks because of Hurricane Ian and now with red tide blooms, it looks like they'll be staying closed even longer.

With Sanibel being such a popular tourist attraction, especially during the holidays, whether it's a vacationer or staycationer, it looks like they may have to venture farther north or south to enjoy the beach this holiday season.

"We’re observing on the ground is that red tide moving in," Matt DePaolis The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation Environmental Policy Director explains what he's seeing now, just weeks after Hurricane Ian, like those nutrients feeding those red tide algal blooms.

In order to get a good read on current conditions, DePaolis explained that they've lost a good amount of the monitoring beacons they have throughout the region, due to Hurricane Ian, making the job more difficult.

Those beacons help measure things like temperature, wave heights, and salt in the water, DePaolis says the marine lab is out now doubling their water sampling efforts. But, since red tide is nothing new and a natural occurrence, he says they are prepared, "It shows up, it’s always present in the gulf, we know it has a season," Normally in the Sarasota area during the winter months.

But it's not just the natural occurrence that feeds the bloom, "But it is directly linked to human-made nutrients, these anthropogenic nutrients that we put into the system, have an exacerbating effect on red tide.

When those nutrients get into the water, he says it only makes the bloom bigger but not like what he saw after Hurricane Irma in 2018, "We’re starting to see the fish kills, the waters changing colors, it’s getting in your eyes, it’s getting in your lungs when you’re out there, but it’s not at that scale yet where it’s all-encompassing, that’s not to say it can’t get there."

DePaolis says the biggest thing we can do is hold off on releases from Lake Okeechobee and that it’s the personal decisions we make now that could help with the red tide like the county switching to sewer instead of septic.