Mote scientists and an agriculture leader say there is not a single cause or solution to the red tide
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story suggested that Mote scientists said Lake Okeechobee runoff did not bring any red tide. The story has been corrected.
SARASOTA – According to Mote Marine Laboratory scientists, pollution from Lake Okeechobee does not cause any red-tide, but may increase it along the Gulf Coast.
"What we see now is not unprecedented, but it's bad," said Vincent Lovko, a phytoplankton ecologist at Mote. He said that cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that come from the Caloosahatchee contain nutrients used by other organisms in estuaries, seaweed meadows and macroalgae and phytoplankton. The amount it actually creates in the coastal systems is greatly reduced when it reaches the Gulf.
Read more: Full coverage of the red tide in southwest Florida
Lovko made his comments to a sold-out crowd Thursday at a "Meet the Red Tide discussion panel from Sarasota's Argus Foundation.
The Impact of cyanobacteria is localized at the point of contact, said Lovko, and it does not survive long in salt water.
Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River "bring along a lot of fresh water," the scientist said. "Karenia brevis (Red Flood Bacteria) is a marine organism Freshwater does not really like it. "
Michael Crosby, Mote's President and CEO, said that blue-green algae and red water both have significant negative effects that need to be explored through collaboration with scientific partners and the local community In addition to Lake Okeechobee, there are many sources of land nutrients, including terrestrial runoff from Reg and drainage of streams and rivers in coastal ecosystems.
Crosby said the response to mitigating the red tide is complex.
Unfortunately, part of human nature, and I'm a victim myself, when you see a problem, you really hope there's one thing that you can correct, "Crosby said," if we just fix this one thing could make it all better. Red tide is not so easy. It's just not. "
Panelist Alan Jones, owner of the Jones Potato Farm in Manatee County, which has reduced fertilizer use 30 percent through precision farming, said major rain events may flush more than 20 billion gallons of water through coastal communities into the Gulf "Working with regulators like the Florida Department of Agriculture could be part of the solution."
"There has been a very pro-active approach by the FDA to get dairies to keep their runoff low," Jones said.
President of the Argus Foundation, Jack Cox, said the discussion was "an eye-opener" for the participants.
"I thought they were all connected," he said, "There is not a single reason for this problem. There are a lot of people who are responsible. "
Cox said the event was put together in 1