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Researchers testing new strategy to battle red tide in Sarasota

By mixing clay with seawater and spraying it onto the surface of the water, the particles in the mixture sink and combine with red tide cells.
Credit: Bekah Horsley/Mote Marine Laboratory

SARASOTA, Fla. — As the Tampa Bay area is reeling with the impacts red tide is having on sea life and the environment, researchers are testing a new method to combat the harmful algae bloom.

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium says, along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, scientists are trying to use clay dispersal to remove red tide in parts of Sarasota where its been detected. It's a strategy they say has been used to control other types of harmful algae. 

By mixing clay with seawater and spraying it onto the surface of the water, the particles in the mixture sink and combine with red tide cells. The process can kill and bury the cells in the sediment on the seafloor, the aquarium says.

"This is just the first of what we hope will be several upcoming trials of clay flocculation on active blooms in the wild," said Dr. Don Anderson, Senior Scientist at WHOI and Principal Investigator for this Initiative project. “What we learn here will help us better understand how conditions in Florida affect its success and how clay flocculation might be tailored to blooms of Karenia brevis, as well as other species of algae, here and elsewhere in the world.”

The process of clay dispersal is common in drinking water and sewage treatment. Researchers hope to also find out how much clay is needed and whether it not only kills the red tide cells but the toxins they release as well.

On Friday, a Pinellas County spokesperson said 902 tons of sea life were removed from county in recent weeks. That's about 1.8 million pounds.

Daily samples collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission show high levels of Karenia brevis, the harmful algae that causes red tide, concentrated in the bay area.

   


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