Natural Environment

37

The natural environment is unpredictable. It can rain when you’re planning a picnic. The wind can kick up the day you planned to go fishing. Or Red Tide can ruin your day at the beach.

Southwest Florida is about a month into a Red Tide bloom that is showing high concentrations both near and offshore, leading to irritated eyes and coughing, the severity of which is dependent on the strength of the bloom, your location, wind direction and your sensitivity to it. That’s a lot of factors.

This week, there are areas of high concentration of Red Tide along our shore. There are also areas with very low concentrations. Wind and currents move the bloom all the time.

We are very much aware that our visitors come to our Island to enjoy our natural environment. Any disruption of that environment is a threat to our lifeblood, the tourism economy.

After last summer’s extended Red Tide bloom caused serious economic harm to our Island’s businesses, we’re all a bit skittish about any Red Tide at all. As a result, some demand that we never speak of anything that might be perceived as a negative by tourists.

We can’t do that. Our readers depend on us to tell the truth, even it that truth might ‘scare the tourists.’ We have faith that people who love our Island enough to visit here, will care enough to learn a bit about our natural environment and the things that threaten it.

Those who want a totally controlled, always perfect environment should probably head to central Florida’s theme parks.

We believe that local media, speaking the truth about the local effects of Red Tide and demanding that water quality be made a priority at the state and federal level and encouraging people to contact their elected officials, played a role in the emphasis on water quality that we’ve seen since last fall’s election.

So, we’re going to keep on telling the truth about Red Tide. We’ll continue using reliable sources like Florida Fish & Wildlife, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and NOAA. We will continue to share resources that our readers can use to learn more about Red Tide.

We emphasize that Red Tide can affect one beach, but not another just down the beach. We have 7 miles of beautiful beach. Odds are there’s one that will provide a perfect day at the beach.

In the past year, we’ve learned that while better management of Lake Okeechobee releases has had a dramatic effect on reducing Blue Green Algae in the Caloosahatchee River, the effect on Red Tide has been something less. We’ve had a mere trickle of water flow our way from the lake, yet we’re seeing some high levels of Red Tide. This may lead to identifying other sources of nutrients that feed Red Tide, which would be valuable information.

We have some amazing scientists studying Red Tide this year, with some funding and a mandate that wasn’t there last year. Our current Red Tide bloom shows that we still have a long way to go. With residents and visitors keeping the pressure on our elected officials, our progress will continue.