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Expert: No Link Between Red Tide and Lake Okeechobee

Right now because of all the videos of dead fish on beaches there’s a lot of talk about red tide.

Red tide is a serious issue here in Southwest Florida. But there’s a lot of bad information out there and we want you to know the facts.

Red tide is a harmful algal bloom that occurs naturally in the gulf.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation says red tide was documented as far back as the 1700s.

What helps fuel red tide?

I spoke with Dr. Thomas Frazer at University of Florida. He told me there are several factors that could lead to an explosion of red tide like we’re seeing:

  • Favorable sunlight exposure
  • Warm temperatures
  • Appropriate salt in the water
  • Available nutrients

Is red tide the result of humans?

It’s not an easy question to answer. Red tide develops 10 to 40 miles off shore. So there’s no direct link to human activity and red tide.

But again this one is important so let’s break it down a little further.

Red tide occurs naturally in the Gulf, and it was happening long before people started living here.

It also develops far off shore, this means human activity isn’t likely a direct source of the problem.

Here’s what we know —

Phosphorus and nitrogen are ending up in the Caloosahatchee River. You can find it in multiple places but mostly they come from fertilizer runoff and wastewater. It gets into the river and then into the Gulf.

They could be helping red tide grow. But the truth is, we just don’t know for sure and there’s nothing to prove it one way or the other.

We do know that once the the red tide reaches our shores, it could be feeding off whatever is in the water and that could be making it a lot worse.

But it is important to make a distinction that we don’t know if water coming from Lake Okeechobee has anything to do with how bad red tide has been this year.

Dr. Frazer says there’s no data right now that link Lake Okeechobee and this year’s red tide.

RELATED: Red Tide vs. Blue-Green Algae: There is a Difference