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Red tide: Sarasota County considers water quality summit

Commissioners agree it’s a priority to come up with solutions to problems plaguing the area.

SARASOTA COUNTY — Top Sarasota County officials are considering organizing a water quality summit amid the longest local red tide outbreak in recorded history.

The Sarasota County Commission this week agreed that a summit addressing water quality issues to generate solutions to problems plaguing the area should happen as soon as possible. The discussion about a potential summit — at the urging of Commissioner Christian Ziegler — comes as the area faces the lengthiest documented toxic red tide event since the 1940s, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials.

“Everyone can agree red tide happens naturally, but there are things we can do to better our water quality and mitigate red tide,” Ziegler said.

According to the FWC’s most recent red tide report released on Thursday, samples taken offshore near Sarasota and Manatee counties show virtually no traces of the toxic algae organism, Karenia brevis, which has plagued the area for about 16 months and experienced a resurgence in early January. While the latest report is good news for the area, it gives no definitive indication that the end of the bloom is near. The bloom once spanned 150 miles from St. Petersburg to Key West and killed nearly 600 tons of marine life in Sarasota and Manatee counties and the City of Sarasota, according to debris-removal figures from the three jurisdictions.