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Can we get rid of red tide? Not yet, according to Mote scientist

SARASOTA — As one of Mote Marine Laboratory's resident red tide researchers, Richard Pierce, lectured on the facts and future of red tide Monday evening, one question kept coming up from the audience: What can we do to stop red tide?

One man suggested changing the water density in red tide-affected parts of the Gulf of Mexico. A woman wondered whether alternate forms of energy could have an effect. But the consensus from the panel of Mote red tide scientists at the talk was clear: At this point, there is no sure way to eradicate red tide or even significantly lessen the concentration of the blooms of Karenia brevis, the red time organism.

"It's not currently possible to control red tides in the Gulf," Pierce, Mote's assistant vice president for research and the program manager of its Ecotoxicology team, said while concluding his lecture to a filled hall of about 150 people. "In many cases, we can reduce the risk, but we probably won't get rid of it."

In the meantime, Mote scientists have made some promising discoveries, such as an algae byproduct that could inhibit red tide growth and its toxins, according to Pierce. The Phytoplankton Ecology team, led by program manager Vincent Lovko, is working on that prospect, but both Lovko and Pierce said it was in the trial period.