Sarasota, Florida -- The red tide bloom in the Gulf of Mexico is getting bigger and moving closer to shore as close as 20 miles offshore, according to scientists.
Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report the bloom is still 90 miles long and has grown to 60 miles wide, as it moves south-southeast.
Mote's underwater robot Waldo has just returned from a 12-day data collection trip where it zig-zagged through the bloom where it tracked 140 miles and at times dove to about 30 meters. The robot surfaced every two hours to transmit data back to Mote.
"We can collect masses of data that we can advance the physical models we use to predict where red tide is going," said Kellie Dixon with Mote's Ocean Technology Program.
"On that s/se track it is very slowly moving this direction. Will it get here? We can't say that. It's like forecasting where a hurricane is going you have a cone of uncertainty. We've got a really big cone of uncertainty unfortunately."
Mote and FWC's next research cruise is Tuesday. Scientists will be taking water samples along 16 coastal sites from Tampa Bay in Pinellas County heading south to San Carlos Bay in Lee County.
FWC will release its latest red tide bloom update Friday afternoon.