Apr 20, 2021 - News

Preparing Tampa Bay for another major red tide

A partial animation of the evolution of effluent discharge from the Piney Point fertilizer plant. The full animation from USF's Ocean Circulation Lab can be seen here. Credit: University of South Florida, College of Marine Science, Ocean Circulation Lab.

A sweeping new study of the last crushing red tide bloom in 2018-19 suggests Tampa Bay counties should make emergency response plans and work together to clean up and offset losses.

Why it matters: That red tide created mounds of rotting fish, killed dolphins and manatees, and emptied beaches and hotels across the area.

  • Once again, bay-area counties are preparing for what could be a devastating summer for both the environment and tourism if the red tide creeping up the coast is exacerbated by pollution from the Piney Point fertilizer plant at Port Manatee.

The big picture: Leaders from eight concerned organizations spent six months studying the last big bloom and made a slew of recommendations to help the region deal with future red tides, such as:

  • Developing response plans that prioritize onshore and offshore areas for cleanup.
    • None of the five counties around the bay had an emergency plan; Pinellas created one after the last major event.
  • Working together on surveillance of the Gulf and Tampa Bay — and sharing equipment and subcontractors.
  • Working with FDEP and the governor to decide what conditions call for an emergency declaration in order to launch an early and robust response.
  • Having quick access to a range of cleanup equipment — from flat-bottom skiffs to trash skimmers to beach rakes to dumpster bags.

What's next: A meeting of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, which will bring together emergency responders and natural resource officials to discuss the study, is set for June.


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