The Marine Industries Association of Southwest Florida and Tampa Bay released the findings of a two-year study to quantify the economic impact of harmful algae blooms and red tide on its member businesses. It’s believed to be the first study of its kind in the boating industry.
“We all knew HABs negatively impacted our industry,” says executive director John Good. “But we’ve needed real numbers to back up our calls for regulatory actions to stem what’s become an annual nightmare on our waterways. Now we have them.”
The association teamed up with the West Coast Inland Navigational District to fund a study by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. What made the need for the research compelling was in 2018-19, Southwest Florida suffered through the longest period on record with extensive HABs and a red tide. While the latter is an infrequent natural phenomenon, HABs are essentially a product of human activity that turn waterways into seas of green goop.
“When the nightly TV news reports health warnings of blue-green algae in Lake Okeechobee, the Okeechobee Waterway, Lake Worth Lagoon and other waterways in South Florida, including the presence of the toxin microcystin, it obviously doesn’t send the message that boating is a great family activity,” Good says. “Toxic concentrations over 100 times the EPA recreational guideline have been reported.”