Helping Neighbors: The Hidden Effects of Red Tide/Green Algae
Red Tide. Toxic Green Algae. Both are the topic of conversation at every local coffee shop, office, hair salon and newscast. Nationally, it’s being discussed at all levels: National news, The Weather Channel, Washington, National Geographic.
The environmental disaster in our water is making people sick. It's killing the fish, sea turtles, manatees and other wildlife that call our waters home. It's hurting our economy and the local businesses that rely on the tourists and visitors who visit our area. Red tide has been a problem off Florida's coasts for a long time. With this area being heavily reliant on the tourism industry, it is not only an environmental disaster, it is an economic and human problem. Restaurants and other businesses are closing early or closing until it clears. Small, independent water sport and water excursion businesses who heavily rely on island tourists are receiving cancellations in droves and are returning deposits. Hours are cut and jobs are lost.
“What I haven’t heard much of in the news is the additional stresses the Red Tide/Green Algae is placing on non-profits,” states Maggi Feiner, F.I.S.H. President & CEO. “F.I.S.H., as the islands only human social services agency, has already seen an influx of individuals seeking assistance due to job loss, cut hours and medical conditions. We’ve had folks come in requesting financial assistance for medical emergencies, such as skin irritation and respiratory problems, related to the environmental situation. Because of the fish kill and odor, tourists are leaving, or not coming here at all, and spending their money elsewhere, causing a reduction in hours or job loss for our workers. Our neighbors, those that live and work here, need help. There’s no telling how long this will last; it’s a dire situation.”
“Funding for our Emergency Financial Assistance Program is made available through grants and private donors, but with it being so late in the year, most of those funds have been allocated,” states Nitza Lopez, F.I.S.H. Case Manager. “In the last few days, I’ve talked with island workers requesting a temporary hand up until they get more work hours. Some work in resorts, others are servers; all rely heavily on tourism and tips to get by. With predictions that Red Tide/Green Algae may last for some time, coupled with cancellations for the 2019 season, it’s going to be tough for island employees for a number of months.”
F.I.S.H. is closely watching for funding opportunities to help offset additional requests for its Emergency Financial Assistance Program and Food Pantry Program. Private donations are greatly appreciated and may be designated toward Financial Assistance Red Tide Relief. Donations of unopened, unexpired, nonperishable items to the F.I.S.H. Food Pantry are greatly appreciated and may be dropped off at one of the collection sites below.
Bailey’s General Store Drop Off Bin, available during store hours
Bank of the Islands Drop Off Bin, available during bank hours
F.I.S.H. Drop Off Bin, available 24/7, located outside the Walk-In Center entrance
Sanibel Fire Department Station 171, 2351 Palm Ridge Road, available 24/7 (There’s a bell right outside that donors can ring for drop offs after 4:30 p.m. If they are out on a call, the items can be dropped at the front door)
South Seas Main Gate Drop Off Bin, available 24/7
Perishable items may be brought to the F.I.S.H. Walk-In Center, located at 2430-B Periwinkle Way, between 8:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.