U of Florida Reporter Interviews Sam Gentrup

Updated: Oct 13, 2018

Author: Dino Bizzarro, UFL

Empty beaches, businesses forced to close, atrocious odors, these are the effects of red tide. Are your state-elected officials to blame?

They aren’t to blame for the start of red tide. However, politicians might be contributing to the severity.

Red tide is a natural phenomenon caused by the algae known as Karenia brevis, according to Florida sea grant agent, Betty Staugler. Humans cannot cause or eliminate red tide, but dumping nitrogen filled nutrients in the ocean does increase the severity and lifespan of the algae.

An organization called Hands Along the Water is fighting for better water safety. It wants the implementation of what is called best management practices.

The organization’s executive director, Samantha Gentrup, said stormwater runoff is a major contributor to red tide. Nature cleans up after itself, but developments that prevent rain to reach soil has caused the water to run off directly to the ocean. Gentrup wants newly elected officials to fully fund state water management districts.

Hands Along the Water is non-partisan. Gentrup and her organization take pride in pushing both sides of the isle to implement better environmental legislation.

While Gentrup’s organization is staying in the middle of the isle, some citizens have openly placed blame on Gov. Rick Scott. Scott was forced to leave out the back door of a Sarasota County restaurant in Sept. after he was swarmed by protestors shaming him for red tide. One sign referred to Scott as “Red Tide Rick.”

This isn’t even the worst red tide Florida has seen. The 1930’s had a red tide that was extremely severe and pollution wasn’t as big of a factor back then, said Staugler. Red tide has been documented even back to the 1500’s by the Spaniards who occupied Florida.

Staugler thinks that this year’s red tide bloom is being blown out of proportion. She blames social media for causing anger from citizens that wasn’t there in past red tide blooms. This is the first severe red tide bloom since social media took off.

Pictures of dead marine life have flooded Facebook and Twitter. This has opened the eyes to people that may not have known the destruction that red tide causes. The thousands of dead fish and other marine life leave a smell that spreads for miles. More people than ever are fired up about red tide and are looking for someone to blame. They might place the blame unfairly.

“It’s so hard to point fingers because there are so many factors that contribute to the spread of it (red tide),” said Staugler.

It’s also an election year and Staugler believes that both republicans and democrats are trying to position themselves on the positive side of this hot issue.

Members from Hands Along the Water will be reading an open letter in Tallahassee on Oct. 20 to all candidates listing demands that they have to resolve what they see as an environmental disaster.

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