FGCU, Mote Marine Lab researchers to study impact of decomposing fish on red tide

While our beaches are clear now, red tide is anything but a distant memory. And if you were in Southwest Florida in 2018, you will remember the sights and smells of the blue-green algae and red tide outbreaks.

Researchers want to learn more about what fuels the red tide, and there could be clues from fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gene Luciano owns Dalis Fishing Charters and says, “Seeing a lot of dead fish on the beach as you’re heading offshore wasn’t very encouraging.”

And as Luciano will tell you, the economic punch impacted them financially quite a bit.

Florida Gulf Coast University and Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota have now received funding to study decomposing fish and their effect on red tide specifically.

Dr. Mike Parsons is a professor of marine science at The Water School at FGCU. He explains, “Red tide kills fish, those fish float around in the water, and they start degrading and decomposing, and they release nutrients back in the water, and that could feed red tide.”

Which begs the question, how much of an impact do decomposing fish have on red tide?

Well, Parsons added, “Collect the dead fish before they really start decomposing, and you effectively remove a nutrient source from red tide, and then the idea is maybe red tide won’t be as bad.”

Something charter captains like Luciano want to be a part of, “I think that’s a great idea.”

The study will also compare the cost of removing the fish and the economic benefit to the community.

Dr. Shelton Weeks is the department chairman of economics and finance at FGCU. He said, “If you think about the city of Sanibel and they’re planning for their response for the next big red tide event, this gives them a way to look at that and make an informed decision.”

Those are decisions that could help communities overcome the water quality crisis.

Once researchers are done studying the decomposing fish, the goal is to compost them to create organic fertilizer.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Derrick Shaw
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