Red Tide September 17 2018, 0 Comments
C'mon In. Really, The Water Is Fine.
Or Debunking the Red Tide Media Coverage
Regardless of your impressions of media coverage on just about any topic, there is one truism that continues to occur. Sizzle sells, and oftentimes, negative and unfortunate happenings seem to bring out an abundance of coverage that is incorrect and flat out distorted. I can attest to this firsthand. As a publisher of a regional business publication awhile back, I was constantly going at it with my editorial staff to objectively cover stories and at least try and sprinkle in a few positives among the deluge of sensationalized negative events. It rarely happened. And in some cases, people got hurt unnecessarily which was obviously frustrating. This is what’s going down in Sanibel/Captiva, Pine Island Sound and a lot of south Florida right now. Shame on you, Media. I have been regularly contacted since July about the impact of Red Tide and other algae problems going on around Sanibel/Captiva and Pine Island Sound. Here’s the good news. The fishing and boating right now is darn good and will continue to improve as we move into the fall and winter months. The only real bummer is how many people continue to hurt economically because of all the negative press coverage out there.
In contrast to the above, let me offer up some facts about Red Tide and other happenings which are impacting South Florida. If you would like further in-depth information, I highly encourage you to visit Mote Marine Laboratory’s website: www.Mote.org. Then, search “Florida Red Tide FAQ’s”. Mote is one of the most highly respected marine labs in the world. You will learn much.
Okay, on to Red Tide and other Algae. Here are a few relevant facts.
- Red Tide is an algal bloom (plant-like organism). The species that causes it is called Karenia brevis (often abbreviated to simply K. brevis.) To distinguish K. brevis blooms from other blooms, it is associated with the term “Florida Red Tide.”
- Red Tide has been in the Gulf of Mexico and other oceanic areas for hundreds of years. There are even records of Spanish explorers in the 1500s confronting and referring to it.
- Red Tides develop 10-40 miles offshore, away from human-contributed nutrients. Then, like making a soup from scratch, there are a variety of forces (ingredients) that come together to make the coastal red tide concoction which affects us and marine life. Finally, when winds are such that drive the Red Tide to coastal shores, we the see the first-hand affects of it.
- There is not enough data to reach any real consensus about whether releases of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee and then flow down the Caloosahatchee River contribute to making Red Tide worse. However, those releases contribute to a different algae forming. It’s called Cyanobacteria and creates a blue-green conglomerate that has inundated canals and inlets along the river when too much water is released.
- When winds increase in velocity and more wave action is created, K. brevis cells get broken open and are released into the air. This can create eye irritation and coughing for some humans especially along the coastal areas.
- Fish are fine for consumption if they are filleted properly. One shouldn’t eat any of the heads and entrails which we generally don’t do anyway.
I could go on and on about what K. brevis (Red Tide) and Cyanobacteria have been up to and all of the ramifications associated with these two nemeses. However, we’re going to move on to what’s gone on in the last 45 days and is happening right now. This is via my own observations and those from fellow guides. Scientifically speaking, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s (FWC) reports are corroborating this. (Again, if you want to do a deep dive into these two phenomena, go to Mote Marine Lab’s website.)
There have been several weather developments which have pretty much eradicated the effects of Red Tide in the Gulf of Mexico coastal areas and Cyanobacteria in our river systems. First, during high concentrations of Red Tide in late July and early August, our winds often came from the Southeast and Southwest. They literally drove the Red Tide onto the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva. This wind pattern has switched in the last 30 days to our prevailing breezes of Fall and Winter which are from the Northeast and Northwest. These winds, coupled with some tropical depressions a few weeks ago, have all but driven heavy concentrations further offshore and out into the Gulf of Mexico. Secondly, water temperature also plays a role in the intensity of Red Tide and Cyanobacteria. As we move further into the Fall, our water temperatures are cooling. This is one less of those soup ingredients I alluded to earlier that don’t add to the mix. And finally, especially as it relates to Cyanobacteria, our rainfall levels over the last 30 days have been far less than what we usually have during this time of year which is the rainy season. Less rain means less water filling up Lake Okeechobee. When there is too much rain, water has to be released from the lake and sent down the Caloosahatchee River. This is one of the prime contributors to the creation of Cyanobacteria and its resultant blue-green algae. Again, because of less rainfall, there have been highly curtailed to no releases from Lake Okeechobee. As we move further into Fall and Winter, we enter our dry season down here. Therefore the prognosis for the future continues to dramatically improve because of favorable winds, cooler water temps and less rain.
As mentioned earlier, what I’m seeing firsthand down here on the islands is a significant improvement in the water quality. And, while the fishing has continued to be good regardless of these algae outbreaks, it gets even better as each day passes. Hallelujah!
Because of all the negative media attention, we have experienced a pretty significant decrease in visitors from years past. The good news is Florida’s slowest season is in August and early September anyway. So while many are being financially impacted by having less business, right now it’s not as catastrophic because of decreased visitation. As we move on into the Fall, visitor traffic will pick up. What remains to be seen is how much the negative publicity from the media will impact the amount of traffic versus previous years.
What I’m here to tell you, is get on down to Sanibel and Captiva. The water and weather are great and there’s a lot less fishing pressure because of fewer boats out there. Whether it’s fishing, dolphin watching and/or boating in general, this is a perfect time to plan and make a fall trip happen. And, of course, we all know the weather will turn brisk as we head towards the winter. Make sure you set your sights on a Southwest Florida escape. You will find the islands and sea as inviting as ever.
In closing, many of my guests, past and present, have contacted me about the conditions down here with Red Tide and Cyanobacteria. Hopefully, this communication will provide some clarity. Feel free to contact me anytime if you would like any further information and updates.
I look forward to getting out onto the water with you during the balance of 2018 and into 2019. Get ‘er done Vern!