New emergency funding from the State of Florida will help Mote Marine Laboratory’s wildlife responders with a herculean task: recovering and rescuing scores of marine animals suspected to be affected by Florida red tide.
State Executive Order 18-221, announced Aug. 13, directs $100,000 to Mote responses to species hit hard by the current Florida red tide — marine mammal and sea turtle stranding responses and common snook fishery assessment work. The executive order also directs $500,000 for an emergency grant program by VISIT FLORIDA to aid the state’s tourism-based economy, and $900,000 for Lee County red tide cleanup efforts. (Below is the full news release from the governor’s office.)
“Mote Marine Laboratory is extremely grateful for the rapid emergency response support that the state’s Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Department of Environmental Protection have provided for our scientists to address urgent needs caused by this Florida red tide event,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote. “Part of this emergency support will allow Mote's Stranding Investigation Program to respond to a significant increase in reports of sick and dead sea turtles, manatees and dolphins. Mote staff have: recovered or rescued more than 165 sea turtles since the start of 2018; recovered 12 deceased bottlenose dolphins between August 7 and 13; recovered two large manatee carcasses on August 4 and 6 for our partners at FWC; and we continue to be ready to respond around the clock while also working tirelessly to learn all we can from these recovered marine animals.”
Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program, which responds 24-7 to reports of sick, injured and dead sea turtles and marine mammals in Sarasota and Manatee counties, has been operating with just two full-time and one part-time staff, aided by dedicated volunteers and in some cases by local to national partners. The new state funding will help the Program add one more full-time staff member for the duration of the red tide bloom, and augment their budget for supplies.
“In a typical year, we might receive a couple of calls about distressed or deceased animals each day; during the past couple of weeks, we’ve had days with 17 to 20 calls,” said Gretchen Lovewell, Manager of Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program. “Many of us have worked long hours recovering deceased animals and conducting necropsies to learn all we can, and at many times we’ve had amazing help from our colleagues — including FWC, University of Florida, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, local law enforcement and the West Coast Inland Navigation District. However, it’s our small staff here at Mote that must be ready to provide the first response at a moment’s notice, here in an area that is truly feeling the brunt of this red tide bloom. Our portion of the new state funding is an amazing step in the right direction.”
- While the state funding is critical, even more support is needed to cover the sharp increase in demand on Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program. To make a donation, contact Mote’s Development office: 941-388-4441, ext. 309.
Another portion of the state funding will help Mote scientists assess the status of a beloved sport fish, the common snook, which many beachgoers have reported washing ashore during this Florida red tide bloom.
“Florida fisheries are hard-hit by this bloom, including large snook in summer spawning areas along Charlotte and Lee county beaches,” Crosby said. “The emergency support for Mote to immediately assess snook spawning stock is vital to determine impacts to this important fishery and to develop more strategic stock enhancement actions to ensure recovery of this population as quickly as possible. Experienced Mote fisheries scientists and trained volunteers will assess snook mortality and status of living stock along beaches of Gasparilla and Little Gasparilla islands, through efforts that will involve catching, counting, measuring, tagging and releasing snook.”
Below is the Aug. 13 news release from the Florida governor’s office.
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 13, 2018
|CONTACT: GOVERNOR’S PRESS OFFICE
Gov. Scott Issues Emergency Order for Red Tide
~Directs $100,000 for Mote Marine, $500,000 for VISIT FLORIDA Emergency Grant Program, $900,000 for Lee County Red Tide Clean-Up~
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Today, Governor Rick Scott issued Executive Order 18-221 declaring a state of emergency due to impacts of red tide in Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Red tide is a naturally occurring algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840’s and occurs nearly every year.
Governor Scott said, “As Southwest Florida and the Tampa Bay area continues to feel the devastating impacts of red tide, we will continue taking an aggressive approach by using all available resources to help our local communities. Today, I am issuing an emergency declaration to provide significant funding and resources to the communities experiencing red tide so we can combat its terrible impacts. This includes making additional FWC biologists and scientists available to assist in clean-up and animal rescue efforts, more than $100,000 for Mote Marine Laboratory and $500,000 for VISIT FLORIDA to establish an emergency grant program to help local communities continue to bring in the visitors that support so many Florida families and businesses.
For the full press release, click here.