TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Scientists in Florida say red tide is creeping back up the state’s west coast.
Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute found high concentrations of the toxic algae in Collier County, sparking concern among the tourism industry along the Gulf Coast.
While high concentrations of red tide have not been reported in Tampa Bay yet, the area is bracing after a devastating red tide bloom in 2018.
More than 100 miles of Florida’s coast felt the impact, with a total estimated cost of damages to be $130.6 million.
Although the algae has been recorded in Florida for more than 30 years, the frequency and duration of the blooms have increased over time.
Last year’s 15-month red tide bloom – which led then-Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency – caused significant drops in tourism in Tampa Bay.
In 2018, tourism officials in Sarasota reported a 7.1 percent drop in hotel occupancy in June, down 63 percent from 70.1 percent.
Across the state, occurrences of red tide are estimated to cause more than $20 million in tourism-related losses in Florida each year.
In Pinellas County, more than $128 million was reported in damages related to red tide. But the impacts extended beyond visitors and businesses.
According to an analysis by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, 626 people lost their jobs around Tampa Bay as a result of red tide impacts.
Mote Marine Aquarium says the duration of red tide is unpredictable and the blooms can last anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year. However, the aquarium does have some advice to offer to improve conditions around red tide.
“In general we can each do our part to help keep our waterways clean,” its website says. “One way that we can each reduce nutrients in storms water runoff is to choose yard plants that require less fertilizer, use slow-release fertilizer and minimize fertilizer use overall.”