More Politics and Red Tide

Posted on Wednesday 5 April 2006

The issue of the unwillingness to study the link between polluted runoff and red tide, has seemed to uncover another issue that mote marine refuses to study. Whether or not red tide is on the increase. 1 After a presentation from Mote Marine where their scientists said that that red tide was just an unfortunate natural phenomenon and that no data showed it was getting worse, Lori Cloutier, president of the Sierra Club’s Calusa chapter, began questioning this statement.
They called Larry Brand, a marine science professor at the University of Miami, and asked him to look into the matter. Later Lee County got into the act and hired Brand to study the state’s 50 years of historic red tide data.

What was his conclusion? “While red tides along Florida’s west coast are a natural phenomenon that has occurred for hundreds, if not thousands of years, the data show an increase in the size, intensity, and duration of the red tide blooms over the past 50 years. While many factors play a role in a harmful algal bloom’s development, it is thought that land-based nutrient runoff contributes significantly to harmful algal bloom development and its recent increase.” 2 and “red tide had become more widespread, longer lasting and 10 to 15 times more frequent.”

Guess what happened after he came to this conclusion? Mote Marine and FWRI (Fish and Wildlife Research Institute), had a “little talk” with him. Mr. Brand says “(They) strongly encouraged me to not present my data to the public” He also quoted as saying ““I don’t think there’s any overwhelming political agenda to keep the red tide issue unanswered,” funny he should mention that isn’t it?

Cindy Heil, a red tide expert who works for FWRI, has a totally different recollection of the meeting, yet does not deny the accusation, nor does she deny his data is accurate. They are actively trying to discredit his work by hiring a statistician to “review the data with an eye toward whether it can be used to accurately determine that red tide incidents have increased.”

Heil said she does not dismiss the hypothesis that nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, allow red tides to persist. She said the algae’s mode of survival needs further study and advances in technology will enhance that research at FWRI. Yet no research is being done to determine to prove or disprove a link between these nutrients, runoff and red tide.

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