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Why is red tide so bad in 2018?

Posted at 7:32 PM, Aug 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-10 19:32:12-04

Red tide continues to plague beaches along the coast of Southwest Florida, and is suspected in the deaths of nine bottlenose dolphins found on Sarasota County beaches this week. 

Sanibel has also seen a massive fish kill. Crews have collected and removed 267 tons of dead sea life in the past few weeks.

"They are working on it to make it clear and clean, but I don't think I'll go in the water," said Ron Vos, visiting Sanibel from the Netherlands.

Many blame the water releases from Lake Okeechobee for fueling the red tide blooms and fish kills. But Greg Tolley, chair of Marine and Ecological Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University, said the issue isn't that simple.

"There's just not enough nutrients in local waters for that to be a smoking gun," Tolley said. "Saharan dust from Africa has also been implicated in fueling organisms that make food for red tide blooms."

Efforts to clean the beaches and waterways are aimed at restoring Southwest Florida's ecology, fishing industry and tourism. But since red tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon in the Gulf of Mexico, Tolley cautions that cleaning local beaches and waterways might not have mich impact - if any - on red tide.

"I just don't want people to think that suddenly the red tides are going to disappear, or not come in shore," he said. "It's very complicated."