Red tide has put a damper on a lot of outdoor events recently and here’s one more for the list: the Great Bay Scallop Search has been canceled due to local water conditions.
“Blooms of this abundance and intensity are rarely seen this early in the summer,” organizers Tampa Bay Watch released in a statement on Wednesday, July 28.
The Great Bay Scallop Search is an annual event to monitor local scallop populations. It is typically held in summer, and Tampa Bay Watch recruits volunteers to snorkel for scallops in parts of Tampa Bay. The popular event allows volunteers to help document the status of the bay scallop population.
This year will be disappointing for volunteers as organizers speculated about the worst red tide blooms the Bay area has seen in recent memory.
“While there is a time correlation, at this time, we cannot make a definitive causation. However, the fact that the 215 million gallons of wastewater was dispersed from Piney Point so early in the season, tied to the lack of rain we experienced in May, indicate there is a connection,” the release stated. “The additional nutrients coupled with rainfall, wind and the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water are all fueling the bloom with no end in sight. It can be expected that we will be experiencing the effects of the red tide bloom for many weeks or months to come because of the abundance of nutrients in the bay fueling the bloom of the red tide.”
Tampa Bay Watch Offers Help on Red Tide
While there’s not much to be done about red tide once it is in full bloom, Tampa Bay Watch maintains that residents can help by removing dead sea life where they see it – as it can fuel red tide blooms – and observing summertime fertilizer bans.
“Fertilizer runoff from lawns fuels red tide, which is why local counties ban feeding lawns during the peak-rain, summer months,” according to the release. “But the problem isn’t just in the summer, as runoff finds its way to the bay year-round. Please consider native plants instead of grass, or xeriscape. Ask yourself which is more important: a green lawn, or a blue Tampa Bay?”
Supporting Cleaner Waters
Tampa Bay Watch helps to develop local living shorelines, including oyster reefs and coastal wetland grasses, and they are always looking for volunteers and support.
“Besides being invaluable bay habitats that help to improve the water quality [living shorelines] also become nurseries for small fish, many of whom migrate to the deeper waters,” according to Tampa Bay Watch. “Through this action, you are helping to repopulate the bay after all of the fish kill caused by red tide.”
The organization reports that while they have had success in fostering these ecosystems, “the current situation demonstrates the need for stronger water protections and monitoring.”
There are more than 20 plants like Piney Point around the state, according to Tampa Bay Watch.
“Nitrogen releases can still impact fresh water and contaminate the water tables and aquifer,” read the release. “Please contact your elected officials at the local and state level (city council representatives, congressional representatives) and ask them to commit to stronger water quality protections, to support continued monitoring, and to fund emergency cleanup efforts.”