TALLAHASSEE — Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in seven counties along Florida’s southern Gulf Coast that have been overrun by the toxic algae bloom known as red tide, and ordered US$1.5 million to be spent on various clean-up efforts and to help impacted businesses.
Red tide is common in this area but this year is particularly bad. The toxic algae bloom has spread throughout the Gulf of Mexico, drifting in the water since it began in October 2017. Stretching about 240 kilometres, it’s affecting communities from Naples in the south to Anna Maria Island in the north and appears to be moving northward. The algae turns the water toxic for marine life.
Why this year’s red tide is so intense is up for debate. Some researchers have noticed aggressive blooms after hurricanes. Irma swept past Florida’s Gulf Coast in the summer of 2017 and a period of red tide affected Florida after the powerful 2004-2005 hurricanes.
Although this isn’t peak tourist season for the Gulf Coast, red tide is affecting tourism.
Gov. Scott said in a statement Monday: “As Southwest Florida and the Tampa Bay area continues to feel the devastating impacts of red tide, we will continue taking an aggressive approach by using all available resources to help our local communities.
“Today I am issuing an emergency declaration to provide significant funding and resources to the communities experiencing red tide so we can combat its terrible impacts.”
The seven counties are Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas.
“While we fight to learn more about this naturally-occurring phenomenon, we will continue to deploy all state resources and do everything possible to make sure that Gulf Coast residents are safe and area businesses can recover,” he said.
Governor Scott said he has directed VISIT FLORIDA to begin developing a marketing campaign to assist Southwest Florida communities that will start following this year’s red tide blooms.
He added that VISIT FLORIDA will create a $500,000 emergency grant program to assist local tourism development boards in counties affected by the naturally-occurring red tide.
With files from The Associated Press