July 11, 2006
Mario Sengco 443-482-2362   sengcom@si.edu

Experts Address Public During Scientific Workshop and Public Rorum on Florida Red Tide


When the data is in, and the science is vetted, what the public most wants to know about the devastating harmful algal blooms called red tide is; what can be done to prevent or control it? During a gathering of nationally and internationally known red tide experts at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., July 17-20, 2006, SERC researcher Mario Sengo will address these questions and discuss his current research on strategies to mitigate red tides.

Florida red tides happen when a naturally occurring single-celled microscopic organism called Karenia brevis --which is always present in the Gulf of Mexico - undergoes a population increase. Florida red tides occur nearly annually on Florida's west coast and occur in other areas of the Gulf of Mexico as well. Karenia brevisproduces neurotoxins that can kill marine mammals, fish and other marine creatures, and blooms have been shown to affect humans with chronic respiratory problems such as asthma. Because of these impacts, blooms may also have major impacts on coastal economies.

Sengco's research is exploring the use of clay to control Karenia brevis blooms and mitigate their harmful effects. "In these methods, a certain kind of clay is diluted into a slurry mixture and sprayed onto the water," Sengco explained. The clay sticks to the algal cells and causes them to clump and sink to the bottom. As the clumps sink, they capture more cells along the way. In East Asia, commercial fish farmers have been using clay for ten years, but according to Sengco, much more needs to be known about their impact, especially on the creatures living on the ocean floor.

The four-day event being hosted by Mote Marine Laboratory intends to identify strategies for Gulf coast communities and resource managers to deal with Florida "red tide." Discussions will address detection, assessment, prediction, control, and mitigation of blooms. The public is being invited to play a key role in the proceedings and to have their comments and opinions incorporated into decisions impacting the direction of future red tide research efforts. They are being asked to participate in an on-line survey prior to the forum and a live discussion following the scientific meetings. Researchers and managers will incorporate public input from the survey into their workshop, then immediately following the workshop, a panel of scientists will meet with the public to report their findings and respond to additional concerns during a moderated forum.

Interested members of the public may fill out the survey online before the scientific meeting at www.mote.org/redtideforum. The public is invited to hear the results of the scientific workshop and address the panel of red tide researchers during the public forum from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on July 20. The panel will be held before an audience at Mote Marine Laboratory's Keating Marine Education Center in Sarasota. Additional audience participation will be available remotely at locations in Fort Meyers and St. Petersburg where moderators will be stationed to help audience members address the panelists. For a listing of remote locations visit:
http://mote.org/index.php?src=news&submenu=Newsroom&prid=82 Because of space limitations, public forum participants must register for a seat by calling (941) 388-4441, ext. 473.

Both the scientific meeting and the public forum are being sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), working in conjunction with Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI).

For more information on Mario Sengco's work, visit his website.


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