South Florida has long been known as a haven for beautiful aquatic wildlife such as turtles, dolphins, fish, seabirds, and manatees. If you take a trip to the region now, however, you may very well see more dead marine animals than live ones. That’s because toxic algae is spreading through the coastal waters of South Florida, causing what is known as a “red tide” to form, and it is killing wildlife at alarming rates due to lack of oxygen. The explosion of wildlife-killing algae in the area is largely a result of agricultural run-off linked to the Big Sugar industry.
In addition to having devastating impacts on wildlife, the toxic algae responsible for the red tide currently plaguing the waters of Sanibel Island, Lee County, Tampa, and even the Florida Keys is also potentially hazardous to humans: Exposure to the blooms can lead to respiratory distress in people with pre-existing conditions and, if ingested, can cause symptoms ranging from vomiting to kidney failure.