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Researchers focus on dead fish from red tide and whether they can be turned into fertilizer

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Posted at 10:40 PM, Aug 04, 2021

Researchers are trying to take a negative impact from red tide and turn it into a positive. The focus is on dead fish and whether they can be turned into fertilizer.

Adam Catasus held his nose as he stirred up a vat of dead fish.

"Gonna churn it up like a cauldron. Cauldron of what? Of dead fish, bacteria, and flies," he said.

Catasus work may not smell all that nice, but he hopes it will lead to new ways to mitigate red tide.

"It looks really disgusting but it looks like perfect compost," said Catasus.

Catasus is a scientist at Florida Gulf Coast University's water school. His team is working with mote marine and the FWC.

This week, they began composting the dead fish on a large scale. They want to see how the animals decompose and whether the result can be used as an organic fertilizer.

"No one's done this with red tide fish that have died from an algae bloom," he said.

Which could make a positive impact on Florida businesses.

"We have large commercial fisheries and we have blooms killing the fish, how can we improve things economically and ecologically for Florida," Catasus said.

Researchers also want to find out if dead fish contains nutrients that feed red tide. And whether removing them from the water, also reduces fuel, enabling the toxic algae bloom to continue.

Pinellas County alone has cleaned up around 3 million pounds of dead fish and other red tide debris in the span of about two months.

So research like this, could have a profound impact on how the Bay area handles red tide debris moving forward.

"Even though it smells really bad and it's frustrating to work with, it can also increase the ability to move forward. How can we improve on this situation," said Catasus.

Florida Gulf Coast University says its water school got funding for its research from the state's red tide mitigation program.

The scientists plan to observe the vats of fish for about six weeks.