A leading scientist says researchers in Florida are close to developing a way to control the algae known to cause deadly “red tide.”
Michael Crosby heads the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, a leading research organization.
A 10-month-old red tide has been killing ocean life along Florida’s southwestern coast.
Huge numbers of dead fish have washed up on beaches from the city of Naples up to Tampa.
Red tide can cause problems for humans too.
Contact with the algae can cause breathing difficulties, burning eyes and skin pain.
On Monday, Governor Rick Scott ordered emergency measures to deal with the crisis.
Crosby said he welcomed the move, which releases more money and resources to solve the problem.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission suspects the red tide caused the deaths and strandings of hundreds of sea turtles this year.
The agency also blames it for at least some of the 68 deaths of manatees.
Other sea mammals killed include porpoises.
The body of an almost eight-meter-long whale shark also washed up on Sanibel Island, Florida, late last month.
Crosby said, scientists are currently testing a process that would pump red-algae-filled seawater through an ozone-treatment system.
Then the purified water would be pumped back into the ocean or waterway.
Crosby said the experiments were carried out in huge 25,000-gallon tanks.
He said all succeeded in removing the poisonous algae.
Crosby said the water chemistry returned to normal within 24 hours.
Scientists also are studying the use of seaweed, parasitic algae and other organisms to fight the red tide.
Red tides happen almost yearly in Florida.
They start in the Gulf of Mexico, where microscopic algae cells called Karenia brevis feed on deep-sea nutrients.
Ocean currents carry the algae close to the coast, usually in autumn.
The current Gulf Coast Florida bloom is the worst in more than ten years.
It began last October and has spread across more than 80 kilometers of coastline.
“It’s a bad bloom,” said Richard Stumpf, a scientist who studies red tides for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Stumpf said strong northerly winds that normally end red tides failed to form last winter.