TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On Wednesday, Governor Rick Scott announced that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is providing an additional $3 million in grant funding to assist local communities impacted by red tide. With this funding, DEP has already committed $750,000 to Manatee County, $190,000 to Collier County and nearly $100,000 to Sarasota County. Last week, Governor Scott issued Executive Order 18-221 declaring a state of emergency due to impacts of red tide. Red tide is a naturally occurring algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840’s and occurs nearly every year.
Governor Scott said, “Today I am directing DEP to provide an additional $3 million in grant funding to support our local communities as they respond to these damaging blooms. As we provide this funding, VISIT FLORIDA and the Department of Economic Opportunity are continuing to support impacted businesses. We will continue to do everything we can to support the communities and businesses impacted by red tide.”
This funding is in addition to the $3 million grant program that was launched in July by DEP for counties impacted by blue-green algae. In total, DEP is providing funding to support efforts in the following counties:
- $750,000 for Manatee County,
- More than $190,000 for Collier County,
- Nearly $100,000 for Sarasota County,
- A total of $2 million for Lee County, and
- $700,000 for Martin County.
THE STATE OF FLORIDA HAS TAKEN THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS ON RED TIDE:
FISH AND WILDLIFE
- DEP and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have provided $100,000 in additional funding to Mote Marine to support efforts to rescue distressed marine animals, such as dolphins, sea turtles and manatees.
- Continuation of enhanced water monitoring and testing by DEP and FWC to give scientists the best possible data to work with.
- At Governor Scott’s direction, FWC has mobilized all available resources to mitigate naturally occurring red tide, and Executive Director Eric Sutton has waived rules through an executive order to expedite the removal of dead fish – regardless of applicable bag, size, or possession limits or of season or area closures – from shoreline, inshore or nearshore areas in the following counties: Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas.
- FWC law enforcement officers have been actively helping with animal rescue and red tide reconnaissance work.
- Additional biologists and scientist are available to support local government’s response to red tide and protect wildlife.
- FWC is performing increased aerial surveys of the red tide bloom.
- FWC is operating the toll-free fish kill hotline. To report fish kills, contact the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511 or submit a report online. Reports from this hotline help FWC researchers track and better understand the impact of red tide in Florida.
- FWC remains available to local agencies and partners in affected areas, including area business and tourism groups in Southwest Florida. Any local agency or group that has any questions or concerns can contact Susan Neel from the FWC at 850-528-1755.
- FWC continues to partner with the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to advise residents and visitors of any potential health impacts. Residents and visitors can contact DOH’s aquatic toxin experts at 850-245-4250 or contact their local health department for any concern about health safety.
- FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory work together to monitor Karenia brevis. This cooperative effort is designed to help mitigate the adverse impacts of red tide. This joint research program that includes red tide monitoring, research and public outreach and education has resulted in better tools and ongoing monitoring for red tides along the Gulf Coast.
- In partnership with FWC, the Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides (CPR) at the University of South Florida offers a new Harmful Algal Bloom tracking tool that generates a 3.5-day forecast of the bloom trajectories.
- To protect public health, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s Harmful Algal Bloom group closely monitors the status of Karenia brevis on Florida’s coasts, providing technical support to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the agency that regulates approved shellfish harvesting areas.
- Since 2000, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute established a Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program, which is a volunteer program for citizens to help collect water samples from routine collection points and sites reported for suspected harmful algal blooms. The timely sampling by volunteers allows researchers to provide an early warning of offshore algal blooms and investigate reported events as they occur. The Program needs volunteers to collect samples from all coastal Florida counties. To view more information visit, Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program or use the Volunteer SignUp Form.
- In total, DEP is providing grant funding to support communities impacted by red tide in the following counties:
- $750,000 for Manatee County,
- More than $190,000 for Collier County,
- Nearly $100,000 for Sarasota County, and
- A total of $2 million for Lee County.
- DEP continues to perform enhanced water testing, beach cleanup and public outreach, as well as the deployment of additional biologists to assist communities dealing with naturally occurring red tide.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
- Florida’s County Health Departments have taken the following actions:
- Lee County has posted and is maintaining red tide signs at more than 180 beach access points along the Lee County coastline. The red tide signs provide details on respiratory issues, health precautions, and resources for FWC, Mote Marine and current beach conditions. Environmental staff and County Health Department (CHD) leadership are in contact with city and county leadership, as well as local partners, in order to coordinate efforts and messaging. A press release detailing the effects of red tide and resources for mediation was sent out to local media partners. Additional resources, like website materials, social media posts, etc., have been shared with local partners for their use and distribution to their partners.
- Manatee County has hosted a discussion with community partners to understand current roles and share resources. The CHD has a distribution list set up to share information quickly with key personnel. They are also helping to coordinate discussions to help partners meet on a periodic basis. The CHD administrator has also been speaking with concerned citizens as they call in.
- Sarasota County environmental staff and CHD leadership have been in contact with city and county government and Visit Sarasota in order to coordinate messaging and provide template signage, website links and creative materials. The CHD has also worked with the county in order to post signs at every beach, provided rack cards to the county and Mote for distribution.
- Charlotte County has posted signage along the beaches to advise visitors and tourists about the water conditions. The CHD has performed outreach to their community partners, as well as local government, to share informational resources, creative materials and public health messaging. They also are coordinating efforts and assisting their sister agencies, as needed.
- Pinellas County has not had a direct impact at this time. The CHD is currently working with the county government to update a red tide webpage that provides public health and safety information. Environmental staff are in constant communication with central office subject matter experts to discuss outreach and other best practices, should they be needed.
- Hillsborough County has not had a direct impact with red tide at this time. The CHD staff is working with their community and county officials to finalize a joint information system, and continues to monitor the situation.
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
- Governor Scott 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.
- 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.
- The Department of Economic Opportunity is providing bridge loans interest free for six months.