ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida’s governor said the Tampa Bay area is "a great place to be" even as medium to high levels of red tide have been found at area beaches.
Gov. Ron DeSantis made a visit to St. Pete Thursday to discuss the harmful algal blooms at a roundtable of experts from different environmental protection groups in the state.
Representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Mote Marine Laboratory, and the University of South Florida all weighed in on the latest red tide research and mitigation efforts.
DeSantis noted the efforts he took to address red tide when he became governor in 2019, including reinstating the red tide task force, singing an environmental executive order addressing water quality and supporting scientific advances, according to the governor.
Researchers from different organizations said they felt their research methods are continuing to evolve along with efforts to improve communication with the public about the latest red tide conditions.
Dr. Thomas K. Frazer, a marine science professor from USF, brought up concerns surrounding the Piney Point wastewater emergency that happened in April in Manatee County.
Frazer said that while it's possible nutrients from Piney Point, along with nutrients from several other sources, contributed to recent algal bloom, he doesn't think that this year's outbreak "originated as a consequence of Piney Point."
Dr. Michael Crosby, President and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory, supported this idea, saying “the cause and effect with land-based sources of nutrients causing red tide is not the smoking gun...other harmful algal blooms? Yes. Red tide? No."
When asked if he was concerned about the recent high levels of red tide found on Pinellas County beaches, Gov. DeSantis said, "this is not 2018," referring to the persistent red tide outbreak that lasted more than a year between 2017 and 2019.
"There very few places in this country that are as nice as this Tampa Bay region. It’s a great place to visit. It’s a great place to have fun if you live here and I would absolutely anticipate having a very strong fourth of July weekend," DeSantis said.
At high concentrations of red tide, even the general public may experience intense symptoms of respiratory irritations – not just those who are sensitive to red tide or would otherwise experience mild symptoms, NOAA says.
Some dead fish are likely to wash ashore, too, and there have been reports in Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas counties lately, according to the FWC.
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