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OPINION: Changes need to be made to combat red tide

Humans are a main cause of red tide blooms which makes it crucial to implement safe practices that will reduce the frequency of these blooms. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/ FLICKR

In the past few weeks, red tide algal blooms have spread throughout Florida’s Gulf Coast as 79 samples of red tide algae have been found in concentrations of over 100,000 cells per liter of water, according to a March 17 red tide status update from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Committee. 

Due to human activities, the frequency of red tide has increased over time, affecting marine life and human health. This had made it essential to put a stop to ocean pollution. By raising community awareness and implementing safe practices for eliminating runoff, the frequency of red tide in Tampa can gradually be reduced. 

Although red tide is a naturally occurring oceanic process, runoff created by humans is known to increase the possibility of red tide development. This runoff comes from farming, chemical factories and sewage plants, according to an article by NOAA. 

Unfortunately, red tide is a problem that cannot be fixed in a short amount of time since it has been occurring before humans existed. However, the community and the government have the ability to reduce its abundance. 

The city government should take action to enforce stronger water quality laws and regulations and restrict polluting products found in runoff such as artificial fertilizers. 

Sandy Little, a USF marine science major, said she believes that by changing an approach to lawn care, boycotting chemical fertilizers and pesticides and planting more native plants, individuals can reduce the red tide problem in Tampa. 

“It is imperative we raise awareness of both causes and effects of red tide because this phenomenon not only destroys the natural ecosystems and all the life inside it, but red tide also adversely impacts public health, the economy and overall quality of life,” Little said in a March 21 interview with The Oracle. 

In January 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that provided funding for research on improving Florida’s water quality. In this order, Florida’s government created The Center for Red Tide Research which connects facilities, researchers, and universities that are taking action to reduce red tide. Although this order was put in place four years ago, red tide is an environmental  problem that will take many years to significantly reduce. Therefore, it is essential that other governments and communities take action as Florida’s government did. 

Due to the toxins produced by red tide, thousands of fish and other marine life such as manatees and sea turtles are killed because the toxin attacks their central nervous system, according to an article from MOTE Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. 

By the city government providing easier access to red tide knowledge and solutions in schools and on the news, citizens can be more aware of the problem their community is facing and take small actions in their life that can alter the environment for the better in years to come. People can take part in the reduction of red tide blooms by using natural, organic products in their home, reusing rainwater for watering lawns and picking up after their pet’s feces, according to the Sarasota Bay Estuary program.

Not only is raising awareness for red tide important for marine life, but also for human health. Due to the toxins produced from the blooms, humans that are exposed may experience skin or eye irritation, coughing or breathing problems, according to a document from the Florida Department of Health. 

The effects of red tide blooms in Tampa and the gulf coast region have been detrimental to the community and marine life. Therefore, it is crucial for individuals and for the government to take action so people can decrease the frequency of red tide blooms.