Florida Gov. Rick Scott declares state of emergency amid red tide crisis


Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for several counties suffering from the impacts of a prolonged red tide.

According to the governor's declaration, red tide is a naturally occuring algae that appears almost every year on Florida's Gulf Coast. However, the tide is toxic and it has been killing thousands of marine animals, leaving beaches and shorelines covered with dead wildlife.

With Scott's emergency declaration, the state will be able to dedicate more funding and resources to the communities suffering from the effects of the red tide "so we can combat its terrible impacts."

The order is in place for Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. It will make Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists and scientists available to assist in animal rescue efforts, as well as cleanup efforts. The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium will receive more than $100,000 in additional funding to increase its response to the red tide.

Additionally, $500,000 will be allocated to help local communities maintain their tourism industries, "that support so many Florida families and businesses." About $1.3 million has been allocated to Lee County alone, which has been hit particularly hard, according to the governor's declaration.

"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," Scott said in his declaration.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, red tides can last anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year. The tides produce toxic chemicals called brevetoxins that can harm the central nervous systems of fish. Swimming is usually safe during red tide, but it could cause skin irritation or lead to serious illness for those with severe or chronic respiratory conditions. Controlling a red tide is especially difficult, the Conservation Commission explains, because any controls must kill the red tide organism and eliminate the toxins the organism releases when it dies.

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