Although red tide was last seen in Southwest Florida six weeks ago, WZVN-TV is reporting its lasting effects on the coast of Sanibel Island.
High concentrations of toxins in the water have caused fauna that would normally eat the algae to disappear. The fauna have also not come back to their normal levels as the fish that normally feed on the algae have also been wiped out.
The algae is growing fast and taking out their other food source – sea grass. The blanket of algae covers the bottom of the waterways, making it impossible for the sea grass to get the sunlight necessary to survive.
The algae moves with the currents and has been spotted near the Sanibel causeway, in Ding Darling and in Pine Island Sound.
The lasting effects of red tide have also prevented, Epac, a rehabilitated manatee from returning home to the waters of Matlacha Pass. After more than a year of rehabilitation at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, he is now ready to be released, but there is still a red tide bloom at Matlacha.
The sea grass in the Matlacha area is not safe to eat. Small filter feeder creatures have attached themselves to the sea grass. They’ve eaten the recent toxic red tide, and when the manatees eat the grass, the creatures act as a poison.
SCCF research scientist Richard Bartleson says until those brevetoxin levels go down to zero, those sea grass beds are toxic to grazers. He says ingesting just a small amount can be dangerous.
Epac probably won’t be released back into those waters until later this summer.