Tallahassee, Fla. — Today, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet, wrote to Governor Ron DeSantis requesting he issue an executive order in response to the severe red tide algae bloom currently impacting the Tampa Bay region. Fried asked the Governor to coordinate a state response to the environmental and human health crisis, instead of shifting the burden to local municipal governments with limited budgets and workers. The red tide likely stems from the Piney Point environmental disaster that spilled over 200 million gallons of toxic wastewater into Tampa Bay.
The current red tide has been considered worse than the massive 2018 red tide that impacted the state. In 2018, then-Governor Rick Scott issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for red tide in seven counties, including a coordinated state response and directing state resources to local governments. Last month, Commissioner Fried met with local fishermen and business owners impacted by red tide and Piney Point’s effects.
The letter reads as follows:
The Honorable Ron DeSantis
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
July 12, 2021
I write today regarding the alarming red tide algae bloom currently causing severe marine life, human health, and water quality impacts in the Tampa Bay region.
As you may know, red tide poses catastrophic consequences for Florida’s waters, with the Tampa Bay region currently experiencing exceptionally poor marine conditions due to the harmful algal bloom which began last month. This red tide event likely stems from the more than 200 million gallons of toxic wastewater spilled at Piney Point, with water disturbances exacerbated by Hurricane Elsa.
In the past ten days, fifteen tons of dead fish have already been collected by municipal officials, who report “being taken off their normal jobs to remove dead fish around the clock.” Red tide-caused manatee deaths have surged more than 100 percent over 2020 levels, and the Florida Department of Health has alerted Tampa Bay residents of potential respiratory illness.
The current red tide crisis has been considered worse than the 2018 red tide — and perhaps one of the state’s worst ever — with experts noting both the unusually early timing and unlikelihood of swift resolution. In 2018, then-Governor Rick Scott issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for seven counties dealing with severe red tide. This executive order provided significant state funding, and made available state biologists and scientists for cleanup and animal rescue efforts, among other resources; the Governor also directed state grants specifically to the hardest-hit local governments.
With this serious biological threat ongoing in our state’s waters, I am calling on you to issue an executive order directing state resources to help mitigate this environmental and human health emergency. With Florida’s waters so interconnected, it should not fall solely to municipal officials with limited budgets and personnel to address this regional situation — state agencies including the Florida Department of Environmental Protection should coordinate the response.
Having met first-hand with Tampa Bay fishermen and business owners harmed by this red tide, I hope as a statewide elected leader you will soon address this ecological and health crisis with state resources under an executive order. I have attached a copy of the 2018 executive order for your reference.
Commissioner of Agriculture