ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis joined the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to survey the impacts of the red tide bloom affecting southwest Florida and the Tampa Bay area. Governor DeSantis also provided an update on the state’s response efforts which include funding to cover cleanup costs, increased water quality monitoring and use of innovative technology to continuously image water samples.
“I directed all agencies to take an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to respond to the red tide impacting the Tampa Bay area,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I want to thank DEP and FWC for their constant presence in response to this bloom. My administration is committed to continue ensuring that local needs are met to address this red tide event.”
“DEP and FWC continue to prioritize frequent, direct coordination with the local governments that are on the front lines of this response effort,” said DEP Interim Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “Governor DeSantis has made it clear that the state is committed to ensuring impacted communities have the support they need today and moving forward. DEP will maintain its presence in the region to ensure continued collaboration and the most comprehensive event response.”
“At the direction of Governor Ron DeSantis, DEP Interim Secretary Shawn Hamilton and I have been meeting with local community leaders, legislators and stakeholders, deploying all collective resources during the ongoing red tide event in the greater Tampa Bay area,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton. “Having spent much of my life in southwest Florida, I know the impacts these blooms can have on our communities and that working together is critical.”
The state has answered the Governor’s call for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach in response to the red tide bloom impacting southwest Florida and the Tampa Bay area.
- DEP is providing financial assistance to local governments to assist in cleanup efforts. To date, DEP has committed $2.1 million to Pinellas County to cover cleanup costs incurred for both Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg. DEP will continue to work with all affected counties that are in need of assistance.
- DEP and FWC have significantly increased monitoring and sampling efforts in Tampa Bay and the surrounding waters. When comparing June 2020 and June 2021, the number of samples processed in Tampa Bay has increased by 165%.
- FWC has also deployed a sampling robot — an innovative technology that provides unprecedented information about how many red tide cells there are at a given time and the behavior of those cells. The robot collects samples every 20 minutes and processed over 500 samples in the last week.
- DOH and county health departments have been working with local governments and partners to communicate health information to impacted communities, including placing signage in affected areas and distributing advisory community outreach through various mediums.
“I want to thank the Governor for visiting Pinellas County and for allowing the DEP and FWC to fully commit to mitigating the red tide fish kill and for committing over $2 million in cost reimbursements to date with an openness for more as needed,” said Dave Eggers, Chair of the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners. “Also, I want to thank the Governor for reconstituting the red tide task force in an effort to provide much more focus on policy and research. Finally, I want to thank Kelli Hammer Levy, Pinellas County Director of Public Works, for her tireless efforts in helping coordinate the mitigation response locally, working so closely with our City partners and their employees, and for working so effectively with our state partners. Our residents and businesses are the beneficiaries.”
“I have been so impressed with the strong leadership at all levels of government on the recent red tide bloom,” said Ed Montanari, Chair of the St. Petersburg City Council. “The Governor’s office has been great to work with, along with our Pinellas County partners, along with city leaders. This is how government is supposed to work to solve complex problems.”
“A rapid, well-coordinated and sustained effort to mitigate the effects of the recent red tide event has resulted in a marked improvement in Tampa Bay’s water quality over the last several days,” said Tom Frazer, Dean of the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida and former Chief Science Officer. “Governor DeSantis continues to make water quality improvements a top priority and is committed to securing and allocating the resources needed to reduce the occurrence of harmful algal blooms across the state.”
On June 17th, at the first signs of red tide in the area, Governor DeSantis hosted a roundtable in St. Petersburg to discuss the state’s efforts to combat red tide. You can watch the full roundtable here.
Upon taking office, Governor DeSantis outlined a bold approach to tackle Florida’s critical water issues in his Executive Order 19-12 (Achieving More Now for Florida’s Environment), including the reactivation of the long-dormant Red Tide Task Force. Since 2019, the state has dedicated more than $14.5 million to the Center for Red Tide Research at FWC, which was created in 2019 at Governor DeSantis’ request. Additionally, in his first legislative session, Governor DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 1552, which established the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative, a partnership between FWC and Mote Marine Laboratory to develop technologies and approaches to control and mitigate red tide and its impacts. Senate Bill 1552 provided a $3 million annual appropriation to the initiative for six years, totaling $18 million.