December 5, 2007

Destin’s Red Tide May Be Rolling Out and Heading West

By Patrick Donohue, Destin Log, Fla.

Dec. 5--What some call the worst outbreak of red tide near Destin in more than a decade may be on the way out.

Water samples taken by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission last week, revealed that the highest concentration of K. brevis, the Florida red tide organism, in the area was on the west side of Destin's East Pass. That sample showed the algae in "low" concentrations. Water samples taken from Indian Bayou, White Point and Choctaw Beach in Choctawhatchee Bay showed that the organism was not present.

While water samples have shown the slow decline of red tide around Destin, the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge is still trying to help animals affected by the harmful algae blooms.

Amanda Wilkerson, executive director of the refuge, said the staff has been keeping a close eye on the water sample results.

"It does seem like it's moving west," she said. "We got five birds yesterday from the western border of Okaloosa County, near Santa Rosa County, and we also had a dolphin stranding in Pensacola."

Wilkerson said the refuge also responded to a pregnant dwarf sperm whale in Pensacola who appeared to be suffering from symptoms related to red tide.

In addition to reports of fish kills in area waters, the algae blooms appear to be taking a severe toll on area shorebirds. Last week, in western Okaloosa County, 15 lesser scaups, a diving duck known to migrate south in the winter, washed up in someone's backyard, she said.

Ten of the birds were dead at the scene. The refuge was able to retrieve five but lost three of the birds days later. The refuge continues to care for two of the sick birds.


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