tide antidote shows promise
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
VENICE In a marine
biology classroom at Venice High School, students stand
over saltwater aquariums, pour in a liquid and watch what
First, they pour it over Karenia brevis samples they got
from the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.
The liquid kills the red tide, a type of algae that kills
marine life including fish, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles
and sea birds, and causes respiratory problems in people.
Next they pour it into aquariums containing fish and shrimp.
As the students adjust the concentration of the liquid,
a few of the marine creatures give their lives for science.
But once they find the right concentration, everything
This years class is duplicating the experiments
of last years class to make sure the results are
But theyre not going to get rich solving the red
Thats what Nokomis inventor Bob Rigby hopes to do.
"Its what inventors dream of," said Rigby,
whose parents sent him to St. Petersburg to live with
cousins during a red tide outbreak when he was 8 years
old because it affected his health.
This Wednesday, Rigby will stand proudly by as Venice
High School accepts a donation from the boaters
group Standing Watch to continue the research on his secret
formula, which he said will be patented soon along with
a device to disperse it in the ocean.
Until then, he wont tell anyone whats in it.
Not even the students.
"Im an entrepreneur," said Rigby, a high
school graduate who estimates that hes only spent
about $20 developing the formula.
How is it possible that $20 worth of material could solve
the red tide problem when researchers at respected laboratories
say theyre years from a solution?
"I think the Almighty had a hand in it," Rigby
said, adding that he doesnt work with research institutions
because they have insisted on knowing whats in the
formula before its patented.
Thats why he chose Venice High School, whose science
department chairperson, Charles Powell, saw an opportunity,
not a mystery, for his marine science students.
"The students are learning how to do research,"
Powell said, adding that this year, they hope to look
more closely at the health effects of the formula on fish,
including whether it affects their reproduction.
"We also want to reconfirm our findings with larger
volumes of seawater," he said.
"This work has had a tremendous impact on the kids,"
said Rigby, who has worked for five years on the project.
His next step after he gets a patent will be to get patents
in foreign countries he has received inquiries from and
to get environmental permits to test the formula in the
open Gulf of Mexico.
If the nutrients in runoff from farms, lawns, golf courses,
industry and other sources feed red tide, as Rigby and
others believe, the red ride problem will continue to
grow without his formula, he said.
"You can correlate the growth of the west coast of
Florida with the growth of red tide," he said, warning
that future growth means more red tide and more problems
for the fishing and tourism industries.
"Its depleting our fish stock," he said.
"And people cant enjoy the vacation theyve
waited for and saved for, and theyre not coming
a factor in slow holiday
By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
Sometimes things are not
as they seem.
It appears that reports of gasoline as high as $6 per
gallon in some southern states, long lines of cars queued
around pumps that have fuel and bitter red tide in the
air have taken a toll at Island cash registers over Labor
This was not a typical holiday on the Island. There was
traffic, more "vacancy" signs and no waiting
at the restaurants. Despite the cooler weather and a waning
red tide, the beaches more closely resembled those on
a regular weekday.
"It's been sparse," said Lifeguard Collin Schmidt.
"We expected bigger crowds."
When asked if he had any ideas about why the crowds are
thin, Schmidt said he thinks it might be related to the
The price of gasoline soared from around $2.60 at the
start of last week to nearly $3 per gallon by Saturday,
spurred by reports of fuel shortages as the result of
damage to drilling rigs and refineries in the northern
Gulf Coast from Hurricane Katrina. The price of gas at
the Circle K in Bradenton Beach stayed at $2.59 per gallon
until the pumps ran dry Saturday. The Citgo station in
Holmes Beach went to $2.99.9 per gallon over the weekend
and the other two Holmes Beach outlets were closer to
$2.90. The owner of Jessie's Island Store, Hank Belval,
said they expected to get a regular fuel supply through
this week, although they might be restricted as to how
much. Brett Vande Vrede, owner of the Pure station, said
he was not sure if his shipments would be restricted.
Neither would speculate as to how high the price might
The worries over red tide and gasoline supplies began
before the weekend. Mary Ann Brockman, Executive Director
of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, said Friday
that her normal stream of inquiries into vacancies from
last-minute travelers trickled to almost nothing.
"We've only had four parties call," she said
Friday afternoon. "Normally, we're deluged."
Resort owners and operators had a mixed report, but many
said they had had cancellations before the weekend began.
The staff at Blue Water Beach Club, in Holmes Beach, said
they were not doing as well as they normally do for Labor
Day. They reported several cancellations due to the gasoline
scare and one cancellation because the people decided
to try to help with relief efforts along the northern
"We were full over the weekend," said Melanie
Johnson, manager of the Anna Maria Beach Cottages. "We
had some inquiries about the availability of gas and how
bad the red tide was."
Connie Brannon, at Siam Gardens, said they had a lot of
traffic over the weekend due to an open house, where investors
toured the rooms which are being sold for condominium
ownership. Siam Garden will continue to be run as a resort.
Brannon said they had six rooms full out of 16 and most
of them were from Florida within a two to three hour drive.
One was from the United Kingdom and the other was from
Brockman said the Chamber has been getting a lot of calls
lately about the red tide. She said they refer them to
the toll-free phone number that gives out the latest information.
She said she would rather have visitors know what the
situation is than to have them come down, experience red
tide and decide they would never come back to the Island.
AME student makes a difference
By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
Whitfield, a five-year-old kindergarten student at Anna
Maria Elementary School, is well on her way to learning
the ways of the world. She learned recently how to make
money for things she wants to own and she learned last
week about giving to those who don't have as much.
According to her mother, Kapi, Chasten was touched by
the destruction in Louisiana and Mississippi from Hurricane
Katrina and decided someone else needed her money more
than she did.
"She set up a lemonade stand last weekend (Aug. 27and
28) to earn money so she could buy some toys," said
Kapi. "But once she heard about the destruction in
the Gulf states, she decided to give that money to help
Chasten had earned about $8, according to her mother,
and she figured out on her own what she could do to help.
"During the past few days, she's seen it on a new
website," said Kapi. "She saw a baby that wouldn't
wake up and she decided to take not only the money she
earned from the lemonade stand, but all the money in her
piggybank to the Red Cross."
Kapi said her daughter knew about hurricanes because her
father, Billy, is a firefighter with the Cedar Hammock
Fire District and he had to work a lot of extra hours
last year when we were in the projected path of one. Kapi
said her daughter has a good understanding of what is
going on and now she has an idea of how to help the people
"To know that she thinks she can make a difference
for those people up there," Kapi said, "she's
vital to storm recovery
By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
The television images of New Orleans are haunting and
the news reports are overwhelming, but a local emergency
official says preparedness is the key to quick recovery.
Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby, who has served
as this city's emergency management officer for 17 years,
said nobody could have been prepared for the scale of
Hurricane Katrina's path of destruction when it hit east
of New Orleans last Monday. However, it appears some states
were more prepared to deal with recovery than others.
Cosby said he feels Hurricane Andrew showed a lot of people
how disruptive a direct hit from a hurricane can be, but
for those who were not around in 1992 to see it, Hurricane
Katrina is a wakeup call.
Cosby said it appears one reason for the delay in getting
relief to those who stayed for the storm appears to be
a lack of preparation and coordination among governmental
agencies. He said although the federal government was
slow to respond, the states have to be the first to organize.
Cosby said Louisiana appears to be the least prepared.
"There were no major problems in Mississippi and
Alabama," he said. "In Louisiana, there was
nothing. The governor and the mayor (of New Orleans) were
Cosby said communication is vital and that's one reason
West Manatee Fire & Rescue, Holmes Beach and Bradenton
Beach purchased satellite telephones, which can be used
even when local cell phone facilities are knocked out,
just for such an event. He said the first few hours after
the storm leaves are very important and communication
has to be established.
Cosby said situation in New Orleans should serve as a
warning to residents and agencies in the Hurricane Belt
don't depend on the federal government to take
care of everything.
"You must be self-reliant," he said. "That's
why this city is prepared the way it is. When something
like this happens, you're on your own."
For example, Bradenton Beach commissioners approved agreements
last Thursday with Manatee County and three companies
to handle storm debris removal and disposal. The agreements
were the result of inquiries by Bradenton Beach about
whether Manatee County would be able to handle the large
amount of debris that would be going to the landfill after
Other measures initiated by the city over the years include
having a place for elected officials to stay off-Island
when a storm approaches so they can approve expenditures
to get the city back on its feet plus an off-Island storage
space for city records. Cosby said they are always looking
for ways to stay ahead of the game.
"By working with the other governments here, we just
get better prepared," he said. "Every year,
we add to our level of preparedness."
Cosby said nobody could deal with the scale of the category
four storm, but he feels Florida in general and Bradenton
Beach in particular are among the best prepared to deal
with the aftermath.
agency may consider red tide funds
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
Manatee County tourism
officials have a contingency fund in case a hurricane
keeps tourists from visiting Anna Maria Island, but theres
no similar fund for red tide.
The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB)
included a hurricane fund in its last budget for advertising
to counteract images of devastation such as those broadcast
after Hurricane Charley hit Southwest Florida.
While no similar fund exists to promote the area after
a red tide outbreak, the Manatee County Tourist Development
Council (TDC) could examine the issue if tourism businesses
find that red ride is keeping people away, CVB marketing
manager Susan Estler said.
"Anything that threatens the area as far as marketing
the destination, theres a possibility of considering,"
"I think red tides kept a lot of Florida people
away who know about it," Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn
said. "Throughout the summer, thats where our
primary visitors are from. Ive heard resort people
say they have people come in and leave the next day. The
TDC should be doing something, theres no question."
It would be a tricky proposition because a hurricane is
a one-time event, while red tide can come and go, TDC
member Sandy Haas-Martens said.
"You can advertise, then it could be back,"
she said, adding that after Hurricane Katrina churned
up the Gulf of Mexico, red tide reappeared off Anna Maria
Island after giving beachgoers a brief break.
Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore doesnt think the
TDC should use funds for red tide-related advertising.
"Until it goes away, we cant really ask tourists
to come," she said.
The current red tide hasnt been here long enough
to consider such a measure, said Ed Chiles, a TDC member,
Island restaurant owner and chairman of Solutions To Avoid
Red Tide (START).
"If this was to continue and we felt we needed to
go with a marketing campaign, then it would be appropriate,
but were not there yet," he said. "Im
not sure what that break point is. In 1995-96, the red
tide lasted 11 months and 22 days, and were approaching
eight or nine months now, off and on."
START has been working for 10 years to raise awareness
of the red tide problem, and now people are listening,
he said, adding that START provides seed money to Mote
Marine Laboratory in Sarasota and other organizations
studying red tide. CVB funds cannot be spent on red tide
research because of state and county requirements, Estler
"The outbreak weve endured has brought a lot
of attention to the need for resources to be directed,"
Chiles said. "We plan to use that as we go into the
next funding cycle to mobilize resources to get people
to see that this is a serious issue that needs a long
residents enjoy hatchling release
By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer
Visitors from Canada, Russia,
Germany, Bradenton, Michigan and New York joined Turtle
Watch volunteers and Island residents on Aug.31 to watch
103 hatchlings scramble to the sea.
"Those turtles are so cute," said 9-year-old
Adrianna Maurtius who was visiting the Island from her
home near Munich. Her mom had to translate, as the Adrianna
doesn't speak English yet.
Kids surrounded the bucket of hatchlings that had been
found in several nests that had already hatched.
"We always excavate the nests after a hatching,"
explained Suzi Fox, director of Anna Maria Island Turtle
Watch. "We generally find a couple of stragglers
in the nest, and it's safest for them to be gathered together
and released as a group."
Volunteers also count the eggs in the nest those
that hatched and those that didn't. This happens across
the state, and the numbers are reported to the Florida
Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Only about one turtle out of every thousand hatchlings
lives long enough to reach reproductive age, so sea turtle
preservation people around the world do all they can to
give the babies a leg up.
Scientists are discovering that hatchlings do best if
the scramble directly to the sea from their nests. There
seems to be some sort of imprinting and a setting of an
internal radar that can only be set by emerging from the
birth location and heading to the sea, according to some
studies released by the scientists.
All 103 hatchlings made it safely to the sea.
Gas shortage and cost
The Turtle Watch volunteer base is feeling the pinch
of the economic effects of Hurricane Katrina.
"We've lost several volunteers who drive from out
east to walk a section each week," she said. "The
cost of gas is just too great and then when they get out
here, they can't always find anywhere to fill up their
Fox said Barb and Ray Wize drove 35 miles to get here
to volunteer and then 35 miles back to go to work.
"They've been faithful volunteers, and we'll miss
everybody," she said. "Local volunteers will
double up and fill in for them."
Kudos to the lifeguards
All the lifeguards are wonderful friends to the turtles
and to the volunteers, according to Suzi Fox.
"Whenever there's a hatchling, a stranding, a problem,
they call me right away," she said. "These lifeguards
have life saving bred right into them, and it doesn't
matter what kind of life people, turtles, anything.
If something needs rescuing, they rescue.
The latest call came from Collin Schmidt.
"I was out on the beach, and I got a call on my home
phone asking me to call Collin," Fox said. "He
said it was an urgent situation, so I called right back.
Gary Newberg, a young teen, had approached a marked nest
to have a peek. He noticed a couple of hatchlings peeking
Fox said the two came out of the nest alive, and she and
Newberg then excavated the nest to check on any remaining
hatchlings and to make a count of the eggs.