Red Tide Task Force funding renewed 15 years after program was shuttered

Image 1 of 2

Red tide may be gone from Florida’s west coast, but it is still on the mind of Governor Ron DeSantis.

A year after visiting an Englewood restaurant to talk with fishing charters, restaurant owners and residents, DeSantis returned to announce the re-boot of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Red Tide Task Force.

The program went dark after funding dried up about 15 years ago. Now the governor says it's here to stay.

“We have a voice and everybody is listening,” said Tommy Locke, who has been a fishing guide for almost 40 years. “If we lose this out here and it turns into algae or whatever around the whole state, red tide comes in and kills all the fish. No one gonna live here. This thing will become a sewer.”

DeSantis says he's working on it.

“These are complex issues but a solution won’t happen overnight. I wish the answers were very easy, but we are working hard to get the best answers and then have the best policies that we can,” DeSantis told Locke and others.

The most recent bloom lasted more than a year. It devastated coastal communities from Charlotte to Pinellas County.

The Red Tide Task Force will try to figure out why and work on a way to avoid it in the future. The governor and legislature are putting $ 4.8 million for the effort.

 “I’d like to say we won’t have a bloom for three more years,” said Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, one of 11 experts appointed to the task force. “Maybe it’ll be a year. I don’t know, but we want to be ready. We want to have those tools in the tool box, so we are ready.”

The Red Tide Task Force will meet for the first time next month.