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State Wildlife Officials Brief Lawmakers On Red Tide

Thousands of dead fish washed onto Anna Maria Island in Manatee County this past August.
Jessica Meszaros
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Patchy toxic blooms have been hanging around the Gulf of Mexico for more than a year now, killing fish and other marine life.

State wildlife officials said this has been the busiest red tide event in recent memory.

Gil McRae, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told state lawmakers Wednesday about replenishing the Gulf by upgrading the saltwater sport fish hatchery in Manatee County.

"These upgrades, which will be completed in Spring 2019, will add an additional 750,000 fish capacity to our facility," he said. "Stocking of red drum will begin in fall of 2019 to match the natural spawning cycle."

McRae briefed members of the Florida House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, as it prepares to create an algae response budget for the state.

He also told committee members that toxic red tide blooms could be negatively impacting Florida's stone crab season, which started in October and runs through May.

RELATED: Most Sea Turtle Deaths For Single Red Tide Event

He said it's unclear whether red tide has directly killed stone crabs, or whether it has forced them to swim away toward healthier water.

"So we're looking into that right now. This has been a down year for stone crab and more of us believe that red tide is at least in part to blame for that," said McRae.

The state had $19 million in total funding available to local governments affected by red tide algae blooms in the Gulf, and blue-green algae blooms in canals of Lee and Martin counties.

Thomas Frick, with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, told lawmakers Wednesday that $14.6 million went to red tide cleanup in areas with fish kills onshore that needed to be removed.

He said there is just about $1.7 million left.

The FWC's latest toxic algae report Wednesday shows that the only area with elevated levels of the red tide organism right now is near Charlotte County.

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Jessica Meszaros is a reporter and host of All Things Consideredfor WGCU News.
Jessica Meszaros
Jessica Meszaros is a reporter and host of Morning Edition at WUSF Public Media.