At the recent monthly meeting of the Marco Island Sail & Power Squadron, America’s Boating Club, about 80 members convened at the Marco Island Yacht Club for dinner and an informative presentation.
The guest speaker was Rhonda Watkins, principal environmental specialist for Collier County, who spoke to squadron members about her responsibilities of monitoring and assessing water quality, and in particular, the very topical issue of red tide. Although red tide is a natural phenomenon, having been first noticed in 1844, the recent blooms have caused more interest and concern. She explained that it must serve some environmental purpose (similar to fires in the Everglades which control growth) and is likely affected by salinity, temperature, wind, currents, other algae and nutrients in the Gulf. Rhonda further explained that red tide starts 40 to 50 miles out in the Gulf and is brought into the shore areas by currents and wind. Breathing in the spray may cause respiratory issues for some people. Swimming in red tide waters may cause skin irritation and burning eyes. Fish kills of bottom feeders like catfish, mullet and baitfish occur as the toxin paralyzes the fish making it impossible for them to breathe. Larger sea creatures are affected also suffering respiratory distress. Manatees, dolphins, sea turtles and birds are all susceptible to distress and death from red tide.
Sampling for red tide has been done since 1995 and since 2005 there have been fixed stations to monitor the development and spread of red tide. NOAA provides satellite images to measure chlorophyll levels in order to determine the development of red tide blooms. One can call the Red Tide Hotline at 239-252-2591 to find out where the red tide is in your area. For more information on red tide, go to RedTideOnline.com or watch streaming videos online at www.Start1.com. Other websites include the Florida Wildlife (www.MyFWC.com), Mote Marine Laboratory (www.Mote.org), and the CDC (www.CDC.gov).
Marco Island Sail and Power Squadron (marcoislandsailandpowersquadron.org) is an all-volunteer group devoted to boating safety through education and civic involvement. Please feel free to join us at our monthly social hour the fourth Tuesday of the month at CJ’s on the Bay at 5 PM to learn more.