Capt. Josh:

Last May, I walked right into a huge red tide at the Boca Grande Beach, and that was about it for the year. Subsequent to this initial experience I, along with everyone else, learned a lot about red tide. One thing I learned was that way back in November 2017, it was known that the red tide was lurking offshore and it came in with a vengeance in May 2018. So, what about now? Is it out there? Is it coming? I wonder why we have heard nothing about its progress (or hopefully, lack of progress) all winter long. Also, on a related topic: Is the Army Corps of Engineers still loading up the Caloosahatchee river? I would presume so.

— Al Dicks

AL:

It’s important to know when someone knows better, so I have deferred your questions to Charlotte County Sea Grant agent Betty Staugler. Her answer follows:

The severe red tide we experience started in late October 2017. Actually, the red tide cell counts were high enough inside Gasparilla Sound and Lemon Bay to close shellfish harvesting areas in November 2017, and these areas remain closed due to high toxicity levels in the shellfish meat (clams and oysters). Officially, the red tide event ended in early 2019, but it takes shellfish a while to rid itself of the toxins. Over the last several weeks, the red tide-forming organism Karenia brevis has not been detected or has been at background levels in samples collected throughout the state. Sampling for K. brevis occurs year round and results are publicly available at http://bit.ly/2F8wdQa. It’s important to note the K. brevis is always present somewhere, so background conditions do not mean a bloom in imminent. Red tide can and has bloomed every month of the year, but peak bloom months are in the late fall and winter. Regarding the releases from Lake Okeechobee, the Army Corps began pulse releases into the Caloosahatchee River in late February. This is to reduce the lake level and hopefully avoid some of the harmful releases during the rainy season, when blue-green algae is most prevalent. The Army Corps also hopes that lowering the lake level may allow some aquatic plants to regenerate, which in turn would be good for water quality. Here is a blog from last August that you may find informative on the topic: http://bit.ly/2FwYBPt.

— Capt. Josh Olive, WaterLine Publisher

Capt. Josh:

I was pleased to see your columnon loons in the WaterLine this week! I work at the Loon Preservation Committee Center in Moultonborough, N.H., during the summer and volunteer at Peace River Wildlife Center when I am in Florida. Loons are still on the threatened list in New Hampshire, and The Loon Preservation Committee has worked hard to educate and protect them so that we can continue to hear their wonderful cries on the lakes. It is very sad when we get loons as patients at the Peace River Wildlife Center because they normally do not survive. They are very difficult birds to treat and do not do well in captivity. People are very often quite surprised when I tell them that we have common loons in Florida! I did my final project for the Florida Master Naturalist Program on loons. I thought you might be interested in checking out the Loon Preservation Committee’s website (Loon.org), which has a lot of information about loons. I hope you can continue to enjoy watching them for years to come. Thanks again for the great column!

— Bette Ruyffelaert

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