A toxic red tide is plaguing a hundred miles of Florida’s beaches.
The phenomenon, which occurs when a profusion of algae emits dangerous toxins into the water and air, has left people in six Florida counties experiencing respiratory problems, according to Fox 6. It has also caused the deaths of thousands of sea animals, including fish, dolphins, turtles, and eels, NBC News reported.
Red tides normally last three to five months, but this one began back in October. It’s unknown how long the red tide will go on. “There’s no real way to know how far north the red tide is going to go. It all depends on local ocean currents and wind,” meteorologist Greg Dee told ABC Action News.
The News-Press reported in July that the red tide is harming the Florida economy. “We haven’t had a lot of cancellations,” Jeanne Bigos, general manager of Fort Myers Beach’s Outrigger resort, told the outlet. “But do I see booking hesitation? Yes.”
Dave Schuldenfrei, a real estate agent, said to the News-Press that he is seeing the impact of the problem on his business. “I’ve definitely lost sales every year to water quality,” he explained. “But this was the largest.”
One Florida beach, Holmes Beach, asked volunteers to pitch in to clean up the damage from the red tide.
In addition, an excess of cyanobacteria has overflowed from Lake Okeechobee and entered rivers, according to NBC News. The problem has sent more than 12 Florida residents to the hospital.
Rick Scott, Florida’s governor, issued an emergency order in July for Glades, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties, in which he said, “Our state is once again facing a crisis from water releases controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This has prompted me to issue an emergency declaration, so our state agencies can do everything in their power to minimize the harmful impacts these releases are having on our communities.”
Farming chemicals draining into the lake have increased the growth of algae in Lake Okeechobee, according the Miami Herald. Hurricane Irma, which impacted pollution, and record rains exacerbated the issue, the outlet reported.
“Many people will tell you that this is the worst they have ever seen… It’s our entire south Florida coastline with the red tide and then with the blue-green algae on the rivers and canals,” Jacylin Bevis, a WBBH-TV reporter, told NBC News. “Living in South Florida in the summer and not having the beach as option is not a great place to be.”