Dear Governor DeSantis,
I am writing this letter to implore you to consider enforcing stricter regulations on agricultural practices and land usage in the state of Florida. There is an urgent need to mitigate the environmental crisis regarding the toxic algal bloom, Karenia Brevis. Funding is an integral part of effectively addressing this issue. Scientists need to do more research on toxic blooms, and how man-made nutrients influence their ability to sustain large colonies. This also means providing funding for environmental monitoring programs that can track progress and whether solutions are working.
The algae that form the red tide is naturally occurring, though it can sustain itself in large, toxic colonies by feeding off of nitrogen and other nutrients in the water. One problem is agricultural runoff and pollutants from industries and agriculture. These man-made nutrients find their way into the Floridian estuaries and from there, into Florida’s ecosystem. Present policies protect careless agricultural practices exacerbate the harmful bloom situation.
I beseech you to consider your state’s fragile ecosystem and the repercussions you will face if you do not attempt to deal with the toxic bloom Strict regulation has the potential to significantly mitigate the issue of red tide in the state of Florida.
One scientific article titled; Harmful Algal Toxins of the Florida Red Tide (Karenia brevis): Natural Chemical Stressors in South Florida Coastal Ecosystems, written by R.Pierce and M.Henry, exposes the destructive effect red tide has on the ecosystem. When the Karenia Brevis colonies become toxic, they cause extensive damage to the ecosystem, killing off thousands of fish and other marine life.
The brevetoxins produced by the bloom bind to voltage-gated sodium pumps in fish and other organisms, causing nerve transmissions to stop. The journal explains how marine animals such as manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, and birds ingest airborne toxic particles from the algae or consume contaminated food.
An environmental implication of not focusing on this issue immediately is the potential of manatee extinction. Very recently, manatees were moved from the endangered species list to be reclassified as threatened. Toxic blooms could very well be the reason they are reclassified as endangered. If you can’t keep the blooms under control, you run the risk of seeing manatee populations drop again.
Additionally, Algal blooms decrease the amount of oxygen in the water due to their use and also the decomposition of corpses that were claimed by the brevetoxins that red tide produces. This article objectively discussed the environmental consequences of toxic colonies of Karenia Brevis, but I feel as though it didn’t accurately portray the role humans have played in aggravating the situation. It states it as a point of speculation, but never maintains that human land use and malpractice are specifically linked to the red tide.
I think to solve the crisis at hand, we must acknowledge our role in turning a blind eye and allowing industry and agricultural pollution to affect the environment so drastically. Another scientific journal written by Donald Anderson serves as a manual for identifying harmful marine algal blooms and identifies some of the known causes for increases in the size of these blooms. It identifies nutrient loading from agricultural, industrial, and even domestic processes as a contributing factor in the ability of these colonies to sustain large populations.
Scientists at Mote Laboratories have found a method to pump contaminated water through an ozone pump to filter it. Steve Gorman writes about this in his brief article on combating red tide, stating, “Experiments carried out in huge 25,000-gallon tanks succeeded in removing all traces of the algae and its toxins, with the water chemistry reverting to normal within 24 hours, he said”(Gorman 2018). It is important to endorse further exploration of filtering methods, but that doesn’t mean ignoring the negative contributions we are making such as pollution runoff.
While the red tide affecting Florida occurs mainly in the ocean, that doesn’t mean that the runoff into rivers and estuaries doesn’t contribute to other toxic algal blooms. For example, runoff from sugar cane farms and other agricultural businesses near Lake Okeechobee in Florida has allowed high concentrations of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae to form. This runoff finds its way into your rivers and estuaries, in turn moving large amounts of man-made nutrients into the water off the coast of Florida and affecting the aquatic life in those rivers and estuaries.
Some of the previous environmentally insensitive decisions made by your predecessor Governor Rick Scott seemingly encouraged negligent use of land which caused the runoff to occur. While his decisions were controversial because he made budget cuts in an attempt to save taxpayers and homeowners money, they were still wildly detrimental to the health of the State. In 2011, Governor Scott cut budgets for Florida water management by $700 million. He rolled back laws regarding septic tank inspections which contributes to pollution and runoff. He even cut budgets for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Humans also are subject to the consequences of algal blooms. The article discussed earlier by Peirce and Henry reveals a startling statistic regarding hospital admittances related to coastal Bloom. Pierce and Henry write, “emergency room admittance records that revealed a 54% increase in cases of respiratory-related hospital emergency room admissions of coastal residents during an intensive red tide period as compared to similar periods with no red tide activity” (Pierce and Henry 2008:630). Walking along a beach in Florida, you’ll see dead fish littering the beach. There’s also a good chance your eyes will water, your throat will itch and you may even get a cough. This is due to inhaling airborne toxic particles from the algae. Consuming shellfish which have absorbed the toxic particles may cause Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning, a nasty but usually nonlethal type of food poisoning.
Beyond health hazards, the algal bloom is causing tourism-related businesses to struggle which is a big part of Florida’s economy. Shannon Simms talked to local business owners in her article regarding how tourism has been affected by toxic algae. Some owners estimate business being down up to 70%. With tourism being the single most crucial industry for Florida for revenue generated, it is in the best interest of both your economy and your ecosystem to start thinking about how you can help The red tides in Florida are fairly common, but I don’t think that the ecosystem or your economy is strong enough to handle yearly blooms as destructive and harmful as this most recent example.
In conclusion, the mitigation of harmful toxic blooms should not be put off for the future time. I urge you to allow for funding scientific research that will provide us with a significantly greater understanding of what allows the colonies to subsist and also how agricultural and industrial runoff worsens toxic blooms. It is crucial to enforce strict regulations regarding what nutrients are allowed to be used and how they are disposed of. It is also important to provide funding for a program that can monitor the progress of efforts made to alleviate the toxic blooms. Such efforts as the ozone system constructed by Mote laboratories that filters water with algae in it. Finally, I urge you to think about the way your ecosystem supports your economy. If you successfully deal with the toxic blooms and support your ecosystem so that it recovers, you will see your economy thriving as your amazing and healthy ecosystem brings in more tourists than when it is plagued with untreated toxic blooms.