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Florida's Algae Task Force Holds Its First Meeting

All but one of the 11 members of the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force met at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg on Thursday. Jessica Meszaros/WUSF
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A state task force to help determine strategies for researching and mitigating harmful algae blooms met Thursday in St. Petersburg. It’s the first time the group has met since Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the initiative in November.

Florida’s Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force is funded for a year.

Click here for meeting information and public comment button.

Eric Suttonis executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He said his agency will manage the 11 scientists from across Florida.

“(Our) overall goal is to make sure we are focusing resources in all the right buckets associated with any natural sort of event from the research to the public health to the potential management," he said. "So this group kind of oversees and helps provide input on making sure the money and resources… are all going in the right places.”

During the meeting, members were briefed on the history of red tide in Florida and research that is underway.

They plan to have a final list of priorities completed by the time they meet again, which could be sometime between November and December.

"Human health is should be our first and foremost priority, along with environmental health, and they're linked, " said Duane DeFreese, executive director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. He's on the task force. 

"We need to affect change through action," he said. "I'm hoping that we'll be able to make some recommendations to the governor and the legislature on what actions should be the priorities."

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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.