RED TIDE RISING : FEAR IN FLORIDA
Phenomenon Paralyses Marine Life And Makes Breathing Difficult For Humans
As if two back to back hurricanes Katrina and Rita weren’t enough ,Florida is now facing its worst Red Tide outbreak in the past 34 years ,leaving a swathe of dead and dying fish from Sarasota to Panama City and a shattered tourism industry.
Red tide occurs when algae known as Karenia Brevis prolifer ate, giving a reddish hue to the water. The blooms choke off oxygen in the water, destroying undersea life, The organisms also emit a toxin that paralyses fish and causes discomfort for humans breathing the mist Marine biologists say the two hurricanes were the main cause for breaking up the algal bloom.
The algae has devastated parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast ,creating a 2000-square – mile area off Northern Pinellas and Pasco counties, now being called the a dead zone.
The toxins are also building up in the tissues of shellfish such as oysters clams and scallops. This will force delay or closure of the oyster harvest scheduled to begin on November 1.
Red tide has been blamed for the deaths of about 40,000 smaller fish, including menhaden and mullet, Dead flounder ,puffers and eel have also been spotted.
The tide has also affected Florida’s most popular sport fish adult snooks .Scientists say over 5,000 have died in Charlotte Harbor alone. What’s worrying them is the algal blooms impact on unborn and just-born snook, specially because the hurricanes hit right in the middle of the spawning season. Cell counts of the algae at locations were above 2,000 milli litre .Cell counts per milliliter above 1,000 are generally considered high.
Besides hurting fishing, red tide is also affecting tourism with surfers finding the tides mist uncomfortable. They have complained that the water is burning their eyes, creating a blinding sensation. Tourists suddenly coughing ,suffering respiratory irritation and sniffling are returning back home.
Meanwhile, Katrina and Rita have wrecked havoc to a huge number of non-human population of Florida. Thousands of abandoned or missing animals are still looking for a home. At the AUDUBON Aquarium in Canal Street, one of the US’s leading Aquarians ,many aquatic animals perished because life support systems failed amid damage to the power grid .Most of their 10,000 fish died.
Over 16 wildlife refuges along the Louisiana coast have also been shut down. The storm reduced one the 18,2730 acre Breton National Wildlife Refuge to half its size and cause $94 million worth of damage to its facilities .About 50 sea turtle nests were lost on the Alabama coast/And dunes harboring an endangered mouse, and trees that are home to endangered red-cockaede woodpeckers, have been destroyed. Over 1.5 million acres of public hunting and fishing habitat on 43 state and federal wildlife management areas—more than half the states public hunting lands--- were impacted by the vicious two hurricanes.
The filthy floodwaters of New Orleans is also threatening the second-largest saltwater lake in US—Lake Pontchartrain .Pontchartrain is home to more than 125 species of aquatic life ,from anchovies to alligators ,otters ,wild boar, ducks and eagies. The wetlands have been reduced by about 25%. Marine Life Oceanarium in Mississippi was completely destroyed. But all eight of its dolphins, which were swept out of an aquarium tank have been rescued. The dolphins however appeared to have some large lacerations and were as much as 100 pounds underweight.
Millions of gallons of oil have also spilled from refinery storage tanks into the lake .Along the hurricanes path sat 31 hazardous- waste sites and 466 facilities handling large quantities of dangerous chemicals .All the Redfish ,which generally benefited from late-summer storms along the Gulf Coast housed in the states Sea Centre Texas hatchery also perished.
The Squirrel hunting season at creek bottom in Southwestern Louisiana, which starts on October 1 will also be affected.. Hunters will find it tough to get around in the woods, with all the trees and limbs on the ground.