Thursday, September 27, 2007

Algal Bloom and Fish Kill On Florida Beach

Tears, Hacking Cough, and Dead Fish on High End Real Estate

By Hardy Jones, executive director,

Deborah Cutting, shooting stills, and myself on video got out of our car at the site of an unusual (for this part of Florida) fish die-off and red tide event. Immediately our eyes began to burn and we started coughing. I’d heard about these occurrences of respiratory and eye irritation on the Gulf coast of Florida and along the central coast of California but never had the experience myself. It’s really odd to know that a toxin generated by a marine algae is blowing off the water with enough strength to cause respiratory distress in people walking the beaches and living nearby. I still have a scratchy throat hours after leaving the site.

See my blog of August 14, Algae Blooms Threatens Florida’s Gulf Coast for further information.

Some city employees tried to prevent me from filming the effects of this Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) at Houguenot Memorial Park, a beach east of Jacksonville, Florida. That’s a bit bizarre until you realize that attractive beaches constitute much of the life blood of Florida. It reminds me of the town officials who tried to keep shark warnings from being posted in the film “Jaws” so as not to discourage tourists.

The fish at the high water mark were a sad sight. A blown up puffer fish, a needle-fish, mullet, even a baby alligator - How could that be? – all strewn, wide-eyed, mouths agape, like rubbish in a huge crescent at the top of the beach.

We drove north to Fernandina Beach that had been the scene of a similar event yesterday. But there were few dead fish. What was clearly visible were the scraping marks of the earth moving equipment that had just cleaned the beach of the dead fish, though not their odor still hung in the air.

First indication of the red tide had come from a NOAA satellite that detected it September 25. Northeasterly winds are moving the algal bloom south. In a day or so we may not have to travel more than a mile to see the bloom. It could reach St. Augustine that soon.

What has caused this bloom? Well, no one knows the specifics of this one. Experts at the Nassau County Department of Health say correctly that it’s a combination of water temperature, salinity and wind direction. But it’s more than that. These blooms are hugely exaggerated by fertilizers that run off agricultural land carrying nutrients that magnify the bloom. Combine a little global warming and you can get a super-bloom.

Florida real estate values already suffer from the declining national market, fear of hurricanes and rising insurance costs. You can add the threat of algal blooms which make a day at the beach a tearful event.

BTW, these HABs are a global phenomenon, growing more serious with each year.

UPDATE: By Friday, September 28 the red tide had crossed the St. John's County border and continues south.

1 comment:

cblake said...

Red tide toxin is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to humans!

Case in point:

An otherwise healthy senior woman (from another state) went to Panama City Beach, Florida in October. Unbeknownst to her, there was a significant outbreak of red tide at the time. She had a bit of a cough prior to coming to the beach but was not on medication or receiving any treatment for it.

Within several days, she began to cough constantly. She and her husband couldn't even go on the balcony without coughing. One day she took a deep breath through her mouth. When she did, something went deep into her lungs burning them all the way down! She had an immediate reaction with very tight chest and uncontrollable coughing. She coughed up BLOOD! She became congested with mucus interfering with her breathing. She struggled with little relief.

After an x-ray showed "an infection," she was given Levaquin. No change upon x-ray. CT scan revealed a MASS in her right lung and pericardial effusion! She went on to have other tests. She ended up in the emergency room and after being admitted, ONE LITER of fluid was drained from around her heart! She almost died then.

Forward to now, inoperable mass in the right lung. Chemo needed. Constant cough finally under control with round-the-clock medication. Body weakened, immune system further weakened...time running out!
RED TIDE does more than give you a runny nose and cough! Do NOT believe it when you read the affect on humans is insignificant! Can red tide unmask a tumor? Can it cause a tumor to grow rapidly? Can it lower the immune system so that fighting cancer is impossible? Can it send a woman with no known health issues into a TAIL SPIN downward and into a fight for her life????

YES!...say her family members! We've watched it happen right before our eyes! Red tide is potentially LETHAL to humans!

Why isn't more being done? What is the REAL reason for the "hush-hush" about red tide along Florida's coastline? Whose interests are more important...the business sect or the Florida visitors????

Let's put it this way....NO one wants to properly record what has happened in this case! Most want to suggest that it just can't happen this way. Believe DID happen and its not over yet!

Contact me with your RED TIDE health issues ASAP. I want to speak to all victims of red tide toxin. Your voice must be heard loudly and clearly!
Red Tide Toxin Victims Unite