Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Thursday an initiative between the state and Sarasota-based Mote Marine Laboratory that includes $3 million a year for the next five years to research the causes and impacts of red tide.
The bill (SB 1552) creates the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative as a partnership between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory. “We will see tremendous progress towards solutions to control and mitigate this phenomenon,” DeSantis said Thursday at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.
The initiative comes after Florida’s Gulf Coast was inundated by one of the longest recorded algae outbreaks last year. The source of the annual outbreaks in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico is blooms of a single-celled organism called Karenia brevis algae, which produces toxins that kill fish, birds, sea turtles, manatees and dolphins and can cause shellfish poisoning in humans.
The bill has drawn criticism from environmentalists, who argued during the legislative session that the proposal had a limited focus on prevention, with the primary attention directed at controlling and mitigating outbreaks. The initiative will have to start providing annual updates on its accomplishments starting January 2021.
The bill also requires Mote to use some of the money to engage with other “pertinent” state and international marine science and technology development organizations to study ways to control the impacts of red tide. The funding comes in addition to $6.6 million for red tide research included in the state budget, which DeSantis said Thursday he will sign Friday or Monday.