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Florida's Toxic Red Tide Appears To Be Fading

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SARASOTA (CBSMiami/AP) — After more than a year of being plagued by a devastating red tide, Florida's coastal waters appear free of the toxic algae bloom that began in October 2017.

According to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report released Wednesday, the toxic algae were no longer present in water samples collected anywhere in the state.

The bloom caused respiratory irritations in people and killed vast numbers of sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and fish.

Red tide is caused by an organism called Karenia brevis, which occurs naturally in the waters off Florida. The blooms drift through the water and often turn it the color red. The algae release toxins when they die that are deadly to marine life. It can also irritate people's skin and lead to respiratory problems, especially for people with asthma. The blooms normally start in October through winter, but this one lasted over a year.

In a Herald-Tribune report , University of South Florida red tide expert Robert Weisberg said currents that swept the organisms up from deep offshore waters toward shore have stopped. He said there's also no evidence that more toxic algae is growing.

Conservation groups are working with the state to replenish fish stocks decimated by the red tide. Earlier this month, the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida announced it will be releasing more than 16,000 redfish into southwest Florida in an effort to recover the thousands that were killed by red tide.

In August, the red tide produced 2,000 tons of dead marine life and cost businesses more than $8 million. In the same month, Florida's then-Gov. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency for seven counties in southwestern Florida giving more state funding to local governments and research agencies.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.)

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