Red tide has been found in Broward County. But while red tide itself is natural, scientists say there’s evidence that massive blooms may be partly caused by human activities, such as fertilizers washing off farms and the discharge of fertilizer-laden water from Lake Okeechobee into the Gulf of Mexico.
“The occurrence of red tide, you could argue, is natural,” said Larry Brand, professor of marine biology and an expert on red tide at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “But the abundance of it now is the result of human activities, basically nutrient runoff from land.”
We know this summer’s red tide and blue green algae blooms have left many feeling hopeless and helpless. Here are several immediate ways we can take action to improve the health of our coasts and ocean.
Last week, Congress let the national algal bloom research and prevention program expire. The U.S. Senate has passed legislation to reauthorize the program, but we also need the House to pass legislation for it to go into effect! The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2017 (S.1057), sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson, extends reauthorization of the program until 2022; requires an assessment of harmful algal blooms resulting from Lake Okeechobee discharges; and establishes a process to allow algal blooms and hypoxic events to be declared an “Event of National Significance”. We urgently need Speaker Ryan and the House of Representatives to take up and pass S.1057. Click here to contact your member of Congress!
Florida hasn’t funded water quality monitoring for its recreational beaches in nearly a decade. The Florida Healthy Beaches Program, run by the Florida Department of Health, tests beaches for bacteria to make sure they are safe for recreational use. For the last 15 years, the US EPA has provided funding for this program through the BEACH Act Grant Program. Florida matched those funds with $525,000 annually until 2009, when those funds were redirected and never restored. Since 2009, Florida has relied exclusively on federal funds to run the Florida Healthy Beaches Program. Contact your state Senator and Representative and ask for full funding for the Florida Healthy Beaches Program!
Our cities and counties can slow nutrient pollution and impacts to our waterways by putting limits on fertilizers and setting standards for landscape maintenance. At a minimum, cities should immediately implement common sense solutions like limiting application of fertilizers during the summer and banning application of fertilizers in buffers zones adjacent to waterways. Contact your city or county commission to ask if your community will consider adopting a local ordinance.
You can make a difference in local water quality by planting an Ocean Friendly Garden, avoiding fertilizers, and making sure your septic system is regularly inspected and pumped out. Water runoff is the number one source of ocean pollution in urban areas! Do your part to keep our coasts clean by ditching landscaping chemicals and thirsty turf grass for native plants and healthy, permeable soil. Learn more.
The town of Jupiter just passed a fertilizer ordinance last night! All it took was one email.
If you’re concerned about red tide and harmful algal bloom issues in your area, please email your local officials. Surfrider Foundation Florida Chapter Network is happy to help any of you draft a letter or email.
Here’s what Marilu Flores wrote to her council a few days ago:
Respected Councilors, Mayor and Beach Committee,
We know this summer’s red tide and blue green algae blooms have left many feeling hopeless and helpless.
Today, Palm Beach County closed all County beaches and beach parks due to the harmful effects of confirmed red tide in our Jupiter area. Yesterday, a short drive from our Town at MacArthur State Park hundreds of fish kills were reported by the media and Park Rangers.
We have the power to ensure as a community we do our part to be mindful stewards of our environment. This week the City of Miami Dept. of Public Works and Resilience decided to discontinue the use of certain fertilizers and pesticides on the city’s medians and swales. That’s 650 miles of city roads that lead to Biscayne Bay, this move will help the quality of their bay and coastal waters.
I am asking the Town of Jupiter Mayor, Council and Beach Committee to explore similar measures here in the Town of Jupiter, but to also take this one step further and explore a fertilizer ordinance during summer months as other communities in our State have done.
It would also be great to see the Town adopt an Ocean Friendly Garden here in the community, so locals can see how beautiful native gardens can be and hopefully reassess some of their own landscaping at home.
Fertilizers and nutrient runoff from landscaping directly affect our local marine environments.
Let’s work together to make Jupiter the leader in sustainability and environmental protection here in Florida.
I’ve enclosed several resources for your review:
Ocean Friendly Gardens
Florida Friendly Landscaping
If you’d like help in drafting an email to your city, please contact our chapter chair, Cat Uden, at firstname.lastname@example.org.