Lawn clippings, dog droppings, fertilizer all contribute to red tide, scientists say

We know dead fish litter parts of Bay Area waterways but understanding red tide and other harmful algal blooms will take a community effort.

Friday, Suncoast and Tampa Bay Water Keepers held an open conversation in Palmetto with Sarasota and Tampa Bay estuary programs, where about 250 people gathered and watched online to try and understand what’s going on with red tide and what’s next.

Scientists say it's up to all of us to help make sure nutrients that feed the algae don't end up in our waterways.

MORE: Red tide predicted to worsen on Pinellas County beaches this weekend

Right now, there are at least two different types of algae blooming in Tampa Bay and surrounding waterways: Red tide, also called Karenia brevis, and Lyngbya cyanobacteria. 

Both are problematic for marine life because they soak up all of the oxygen in the water, starving any other marine life.

Both algae are naturally occurring, but they are made worse by human activity. Most scientists agree the spill of wastewater from the Piney Point fertilizer plant holding pond is a probable contributor to the current outbreaks, it’s not the only problem.  

Everyday activities in Bay Area counties will continue to exacerbate these events, like dogs and other animals using the bathroom near waterways, blowing grass clipping into drains that lead to the bay, and overfertilizing gardens and plants.

These are the things that also feed into the cycle of red tide algal blooms.  

Scientists also say the bay is resilient and should recover from this event. However, if it continues to happen, it could become a body of water known as a ‘dead zone,’ where no marine life can survive.