CBSN

Researchers may be on brink of solving deadly red tides

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Researchers in southwest Florida think they've found a solution to the red tides that have killed millions of sea animals, CBS Miami reports. Scientists from Mote Marin Laboratory are testing a system in a canal near Fort Myers. Two pumps installed on the canal mix water with ozone, which removes toxins.

The system, which can process 300 gallons of water a minute, is already being used to clean water in small tanks at a marine hospital on Longboat Key.  

"This system gets rid of the red tide, gets rid of the toxins, gets rid of the excess organic matter that's decomposing, and it deoxygenates the water, so it's really a win-win situation," said Mote Marine Laboratory senior scientist Richard Pierce.

Researchers said their biggest challenges are the size of the area they are testing the system in, and how it will work in a natural ecosystem.

On Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order to address red tide. The order declared a state of emergency for seven Florida counties grappling with a red tide algae bloom that is lasting longer than usual, CBS Miami reported.

Scott also said $100,000 was being directed for Mote Marine Laboratory.

Red tide is a term that describes a harmful algal bloom (HAB), which occurs "when colonies of algae-simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater-grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds" according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service

"HABs have been reported in every U.S. coastal state, and their occurrence may be on the rise," the National Ocean Service says. "HABs are a national concern because they affect not only the health of people and marine ecosystems, but also the 'health' of local and regional economies."  

Red tide this summer has overrun Florida's southern Gulf Coast. Thousands of dead fish as well as some dolphins, sea turtles and a whale shark have washed ashore, The Associated Press reported.

Florida is also dealing with a freshwater algae outbreak at Lake Okeechobee, the aquatic lifeblood of South Florida.

US-ENVIRONMENT-ANIMAL-OCEANS

Bob Wasno, a marine biologist with the Florida Gulf Coast University, docks his boat on a beach in Bonita Springs, Florida, on August 14, 2018, where hundreds of dead fish washed up killed by red tide.

Gianrigo Marletta/AFP/Getty Images