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Battle Against Red Tide May Get $15 Million Boost

Conor Goulding
/
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The battle against red tide may soon get a boost. A proposal to give $3 million a year for five years to study red tide got a unanimous thumbs-up when the Tampa Bay Area legislative delegation met Tuesday in Sarasota.

Red tide dominated the meeting - but green was the color that did the most talking in the end. The proposal to spend $15 million came from the meeting's host, Mote Marine Laboratory. Its president and CEO, Michael Crosby, said there are technologies they're eyeing to battle the scourge, including using ozone and micro-clays and algaes.

"Depending on the location of the red tide, whether it's a small canal, small embayments, Sarasota Bay, the shorefront on the Gulf of Mexico, all of these will likely require a suite of technologies that would be deployed," he said.

Crosby said there's a reason he's asking for money for only five years.

"There's a sunset to this, because I firmly believe this is a very applied, targeted effort, and we can get it down in five years," he said. "As a matter of fact, I think before five years, you're going to begin to see some of these technologies get to the field testing."

He said two of the technologies are already being tested in the field.

Mote Marine is reporting "this independent, nonprofit Initiative will: use innovative technology approaches to determine the most effective and ecologically sound, novel potential methods to fight Florida red tide; develop new technologies for smartphone apps to engage citizen science information collaborations with the public and commercial fishermen in reporting red tide toxin concentrations; and enhance public health protection by expanding Mote’s Beach Conditions Reporting System ()."

State Sen. Joe Gruters, whose Sarasota district was hit hard by red tide last year, expects to file the bill in the next couple of days.

"We can't obviously prevent red tide, but what we can do is try to come up with technology that will prevent the intensification of red tide long term, and that's the goal," Gruters said, "and I think that Dr. Crosby and Mote Marine is the perfect organization to carry that ball."

Gruters says Representative Michael Grant of Charlotte County will introduce a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

Mote Marine President and CEO Michael Crosby makes his presentation to the Tampa Bay Area Legislative Delegation
Credit Conor Goulding / Mote Marine Laboratory
/
The Florida Channel
Mote Marine President and CEO Michael Crosby makes his presentation to the Tampa Bay Area Legislative Delegation

 

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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.