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Researchers release playbook for combating red tide, other deadly algae

Seventy-five researchers from Florida and around the country met in St. Petersburg in August to build a consensus document regarding harmful algal blooms.

SARASOTA — A symposium of the nation’s top experts in harmful algal blooms has created a playbook for addressing deadly algae in Florida.

The consensus findings of 75 researchers, titled “State of the Science for Harmful Algal Blooms in Florida,” notes that there is a dire need for better public communication and data gaps in research with the two most common harmful algal blooms, or “HABs” — the red-tide organism, Karenia brevis, and blue-green algae also called cyanobacteria.

Researchers met Aug. 20-21 at the United States Geological Survey in St. Petersburg.

Among the topics is confusion in the use of bloom terms, such as “red tide,” “blue-green algae” and “cyanobacteria,” which the public does not readily understand, the report states. It also said there are mixed messages regarding human health concerns, aerosol exposure and seafood safety, the causes of blooms, bloom interrelatedness, as well as bloom response and control measures.

“The goal was to make sure we are all on the same page,” said Betty Staugler, a Florida Sea Grant agent for UF/IFAS Extension-Charlotte County. “Consistency is super important. There’s enough misinformation out there, and we really wanted to come to have a more unified voice.”

The consensus document focuses on five primary topics: how blooms begin, develop and end; bloom prediction and modeling; how blooms are detected and monitored; how blooms might be controlled or reduced; and how blooms affect public health.