August 16, 2018: Researchers in southwest Florida think they’ve found a solution to the red tides that have killed millions of sea animals, CBS Miami reports. Scientists from Mote Marin Laboratory are testing a system in a canal near Fort Myers. Two pumps installed on the canal mix water with ozone, which removes toxins. The system, which can process 300 gallons of water a minute, is already being used to clean water in small tanks at a marine hospital on Longboat Key. (Note: image associated with story captured Saturday, August 18, 2018 on Captiva Island, Florida).

“This system gets rid of the red tide, gets rid of the toxins, gets rid of the excess organic matter that’s decomposing, and it deoxygenates the water, so it’s really a win-win situation,” said Mote Marine Laboratory senior scientist Richard Pierce.

Researchers said their biggest challenges are the size of the area they are testing the system in, and how it will work in a natural ecosystem.

Last Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order to address red tide. The order declared a state of emergency for seven Florida counties grappling with a red tide algae bloom that is lasting longer than usual, CBS Miami reported. Scott also said $100,000 was being directed for Mote Marine Laboratory.

Red tide is a term that describes a harmful algal bloom (HAB), which occurs “when colonies of algae-simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater-grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service.

“HABs have been reported in every U.S. coastal state, and their occurrence may be on the rise,” the National Ocean Service says. “HABs are a national concern because they affect not only the health of people and marine ecosystems, but also the ‘health’ of local and regional economies.”

Red tide this summer has overrun Florida’s southern Gulf Coast. Thousands of dead fish as well as some dolphins, sea turtles and a whale shark have washed ashore, The Associated Press reported.

Editor’s Note: Water quality, beach quality and red tide conditions (and any associated human health reactions) have improved significantly in the past two weeks, as the winds have shifted and the beaches have been tended. This is not to suggest the long term problem has been solved; red tide has been reported as far back as the mid 1800s, but we recognize the many human factors that have contributed, and are aligned with those organizations who champion and advocate for change.