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Researchers look at ways to control Red Tide

While most research on red tide is focused on what causes it and how to track its path, new funding sources are making it possible for investigators to take a deeper look at actually controlling red tide.

A team with researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the University of Central Florida, and the University of South Florida has the funding they need to field test a potential new treatment that has been very successful in China.

Finding a way to control red tide is important for Tampa Bay – and Florida’s west coast – because events can cause massive environmental and economic losses. Just in 2021, more than 3.9 million pounds of dead sealife were collected during a red tide event by Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties.

The technology being studied now is called clay flocculation. Clay particles are applied to waters infested with Karenia brevis, the algae which causes red tide. The cells become enmeshed in the clay and fall to the sea floor. Initial results from a small field test in July 2021 showed that it killed about 75% of the red tide cells in two hours. Despite the high kill rate, the levels of the K. brevis toxins decreased only slightly.