SARASOTA — Mote Marine Laboratory dispatched its underwater robot — dubbed “Waldo” — to monitor red tide in Englewood and Boca Grande waters.
Working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Mote Marine researchers will be monitoring the red tide algae bloom with Waldo over the next two weeks, Mote announced Friday.
“Waldo has a critical job in the team effort to monitor and study this red tide bloom,” said Gary Kirkpatrick, Mote’s Phytoplankton Ecology Program manager, in a prepared statement.
The robot will monitor the entire water column of red tide, “zigzagging” up and down, and will transmit data to Mote whenever it surfaces.
Researchers deem the “background” presence of red tide as levels of 1,000 cells or fewer per liter of water. Very low counts are more than 1,000 cells to fewer than 5,000 cells per liter.
However, red tide can cause fish kills and respiratory irritations when levels exceed 100,000 cells or more of the algae concentrated in a liter of water.
According to researchers, winds and currents drive red tide blooms ashore. Toxins are generally released when the delicate algae cells break up due to wave action.
According to an FWC report Friday, the latest bloom stretches alongshore and offshore of Lee and southern Charlotte counties and extends approximately 15 miles offshore of Sanibel Island. The latest water samples reveal low to medium concentrations of the algae.
Mote Marine’s website, atmote.org/beaches, updates conditions on 26 Florida beaches.
On Friday, Mote reported “slight respiratory irritation among beachgoers at Manasota Beach, Venice Beach and Venice North Jetty and no respiratory effects elsewhere in the county. Respiratory impacts were probably minimal because of favorable (east) winds keeping red tide toxins away from shore. Dead fish were also reported at the same three beaches.”
FWC encourages the public to report red tide or any fish kills to its hotline at 800-636-0511.
Call 866-300-9399 at any time, from anywhere in Florida to hear recorded reports of red tide throughout the state.
More information about red tide can be found at myfwc.com/research/redtide.