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Scientists turning Red Tide into ready to use fertilizer in Southwest Florida

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Posted at 3:46 PM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 15:46:37-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Scientists at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) are turning fish killed by Red Tide into ready-to-use organic fertilizer.

Mike Parsons, a Professor of Marine Science, FGCU told Fox 4 scientists were looking to answer two questions from their recent study.

“Number one, if you remove dead fish, how would that affect Red Tide, and then the second part would be, what do you do with the dead fish. So we looked at composting it to make it into fertilizer,” said Parsons.

Parsons says their scientists have discovered the natural bacteria during the composting process removes all of the harmful toxins from Red Tide.

It's a discovery that could also reduce the amount of pollution that runs into waterways and canals in Southwest Florida.

“These fish came from the ocean, they obtained all of their nutrition and nutrients from the ocean, so if we turn them into fertilizer, apply it on land, crops and if it runs back into the just returns back to where it came from. so it’s a neutral, nutrient situation,” said Parsons.

It could save a few bucks along the way.

Parsons says during peak periods of Red Tide when the concentration is high enough to kill fish (100,000 cells per liter of water) it has cost Lee and Collier county a combined amount of $14 million a month to address.

A bill that Parsons says could be reduced by collecting and composting.

“And the cleanup numbers we have come up with range from about $2,000-$6,000 dollars per ton of fish. So then it’s just a matter of if these are our bookends, then we can kind of develop an action plan to remove these fish,” he said.

On Friday, scientists say the next step will be to connect with state and local organizations to turn their efforts from a study into actual solutions.

“I think there would be opportunities for coordination and definitely for composting and marketing fertilizers itself. so ya there is a lot of opportunities here and it would be good for us locally to help diversify our economy,” said Parsons.