On Friday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced the appointments of 11 expert researchers and leading scientists to the recently re-organized Red Tide Task Force.
For over 15 years, this Task Force had been inactive and without funding until it’s re-organization by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at the direction of Governor DeSantis. Governor DeSantis originally called for the re-organization of the task force on his second day in office via Executive Order 19-12.
“The Red Tide Task Force will focus on the causes of Red Tide and will be supported by FWC’s Center for Red Tide Research, which received $4.8 million in the budget,” said Governor DeSantis. “My administration will continue to press forward to find solutions and empower our brightest minds to help protect our environment. The issues of Red Tide are complex, but with the appointments of these leading scientists and researchers, we hope to make a difference.”
“Governor DeSantis has made it clear that the water quality in this state is a top priority,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “Bringing some of the state’s top environmental scientists together to address Red Tide will complement the efforts of the experts on the Blue-Green Algae Task Force and enable us to expedite our efforts to restore and protect our fresh and marine waters.”
The 11 experts appointed to the task force include Director of the Cooperative Institute for North Atlantic Research, Dr. Donald Anderson; Executive Director of the IRL Council, Dr. Duane De Freese; Dr. Quay Dortch with the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration; Environmental Administrator for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Ms. Jill Fleiger; Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration Section Leader for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Dr. Leanne Flewelling; Supervising Environmental Scientist for the Estuaries Section at the St. Johns River Water Management District, Dr. Charles Jacoby; Executive Director for the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observation System, Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick; natural resource and environmental economist at the University of Florida, Dr. Sherry Larkin; scientific advisor to the Chief of the Bureau of Environmental Health at Florida Department of Health, Mr. Andrew Reich; Principal Environmental Specialist with Collier County Pollution Control, Ms. Rhonda Watkins and Deputy Director over the Laboratory and Water Quality Standards Programs within the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, Mr. David Whiting.
The Red Tide Task Force will complement the Blue Green Algae Task Force and the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative, which is the partnership between the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute within FWC and Mote Marine Laboratory.
Red Tide blooms have been documented along Florida’s Gulf coast since the 1840s, and recently Florida had experienced one of its most severe red tide blooms on record. Over the course of 16 months, from November of 2017 until February of 2019, this Red Tide event was recorded as the fifth longest since 1953, and the first since 2007 to impact Florida’s southwest, northwest, and east coasts simultaneously.