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Environmental activists: Red tide report from algae task force doesn’t go far enough

One activist would like the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force to analyze whether Florida's nutrient regulatory mechanisms are working, saying there could be something inherently wrong with them, or they're not being enforced by government agencies as designed.

A task force assembled by Gov. Ron DeSantis to study algae blooms recently released a red tide report on its progress and recommendations, but some advocates think the document is lacking.

The report expands on their original recommendations from January 2020, regarding public health, communications, and management and response.

The document also lays out what the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force members have so far done. For example, in 2020, the FWC Center for Red Tide Research expanded a cooperative monitoring and research program for five years with Mote Marine Laboratory and the University of South Florida.

In 2021, they published a resource guide for public health response to harmful algae blooms in Florida, started work on a statewide public communications plan, and got multiple research projects funded.

Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the report talks a lot about things we already know. She said rather than looking into acquiring funds for more research, the task force missed a chance to identify policies that are already in place but not being enforced. The document didn't go far enough to uncover why the toxic blooms, which are fed by nutrient-rich water, can be so intense, according to Lopez.

"Where's the piece that talks about how we have all of these existing policies and laws that are designed to keep nutrient pollution out of our water, and how those might be performing in light of all of the red tide that we've been experiencing?" she asked.

The red tide report does say a long-term focal area of the group includes “improvements to current policies and procedures that prevent or mitigate the impacts of harmful algal blooms.”