Mote crews spread thin as red tide continues

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From rescues to recoveries, the staff at Mote Marine Laboratory has worked nonstop since the bloom of red tide hit Bay Area beaches and waterways.

There's some hope for workers after a state of emergency was declared – bringing more money to research and prevention.

Eleven dead dolphins, three manatee recoveries, and more than 160 sea turtle recoveries have created a lot of work for the three-member Stranding Investigation Team at Mote.

“The pressure, the wear and tear on our human resources, on our stranding operations, as well as the supplies, have been completely used up,” explained President and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium Dr. Michael Crosby. “It is a staff that is not designed to respond to a doubling of the amount of strandings that we are responding to.”

Governor Rick Scott's declaration of a state of emergency will bring some relief. It comes with $100,000 in state funds for Mote.

As dead fish continue to wash onto shorelines across southwest Florida, a portion of the money will also go to examining snook fisheries.

This is their spawning period and there's been numerous reports of dead snook, from Charlotte to Manatee counties.

“It's very, very important that we go out and we get the data, the facts on what the populations' impacts are right now. Through modeling, we can forecast what the impacts are longer term. That helps us then be ready to grow the existing snook hatchery and stock enhancement program that we have been supporting for years here in Sarasota Bay,” Dr. Crosby said.

Located in Sarasota, Mote is on the front lines of the red tide disaster. A majority of its funding comes from private donors, meaning it has to stretch its limited resources at a time when its work is needed the most.

“We are beginning to develop a strategy for presenting a comprehensive approach for targeted response to the current red tide and its impact and very targeted areas of research,” Dr. Crosby said.

Many people ask, ‘Why hasn't more been done to fund red tide research?’

Historically, Mote Marine says it has received additional funding for programs after a significant bloom like the one we are seeing right now but funding does not often stay consistent in between blooms. Without that funding, some research projects cannot take place.