Story at a glance:
- Coastal sharks have escaped by the hundreds to Florida in response to an outbreak of red tide.
- Red tide is caused by the Karenia brevis algae.
- Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) deployed the algal bloom task force in 2019 to examine issues related to red tide, with the top priority in making sure the water is safe for marine life.
Coastal sharks have fled by the hundreds to Florida due to the toxic red tide outbreak that endangers marine animals and their ecosystems.
Bonnethead, blacktip, nurse and lemon sharks are seeking refuge in the Buttonwood Harbor on Longboat Key, The Guardian reported.
Red tide is when Karenia brevis, a specific algae, overwhelms the water and pollutes the surrounding area with harmful toxins, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
In response to the red tide, sharks seek food and better oxygen.
“You just don’t normally see sharks piling up like that in these canals, they do go in there but not in the huge numbers that we’re seeing reported,” said Mike Heithaus, professor at Florida International University and dean of its college of arts, sciences and education, who happens to be a shark expert.
“We don’t know what the trigger might be for those sharks going to those areas, but the changes in the chemistry of the water, the oxygen being pulled out of the water, the toxins, combined with the amount of dead fish around, any of those could cause these big concentrations,” he added.
“It’s not the kind of thing that you would see if it wasn’t a big red tide event,” Heithaus said.
Heithaus says that too much nutrient gets into the water, from a variety of sources, causing these types of blooms.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) reactivated the algal bloom task force in 2019 to examine issues related to red tide, with the top priority in making sure the water is safe for marine life.
“If the conditions are really bad outside that canal, they might be stuck until the conditions get to the point where there’s enough oxygen or there aren’t toxins if they were to leave the canals,” Heithaus said.
“But at the same time, if those conditions go south in the canal there’s nowhere left to run. They can’t run if it’s not safe outside so it’s really hard to say.”
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