Florida Governor Rick Scott has issued a state of emergency for 5 counties because of the red tide algae bloom that continues to kill marine life and hurt local economies.
Over 2000 tons of dead animals have been cleaned up because of the Karenia brevis algae. When the algae appears in large quantities, as it is now in the Gulf of Mexico, the toxins released change the water to a reddish color and negatively affect the nervous systems of animals. The toxins can also make the air difficult to breathe.
Red tide, which flows with the wind and water currents, is currently spreading through about 130 miles of coastline in Florida’s Manatee, Collier, Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties, according to CNN.
Since the beginning of August, workers have been scrambling to clean up the dead animals as they wash up.
Manatee County has reportedly cleaned up 164 tons of dead marine animals, and Sarasota County had removed 149 tons.
Fort Myers’ Lee County had picked up well over 1700 tons of dead sea creatures.
The totals does not include dead fish collected from the extensive network of privately owned canals throughout the five counties.
Charlotte and Collier counties are not tracking their fishkill collections, but Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s database shows that Charlotte County had seven reported fish kills so far in August and Collier has had 13. Last year’s totals were 1 in Charlotte County and 0 in Collier County.
Businesses have also been negatively affected by the red tide crisis, with over $8 million in business losses already. That number does not include the wages lost by employees of those companies because of the algae.
Employees of businesses in just Fort Myers Beach are estimated to have lost $559,770 in wages this month.
“I have no way of knowing if this is going to last two weeks or four more months,” said business owner Rochelle Neumann. “This may shut us down permanently.”