Red tide confirmed in Florida: What you need to know
Red tide is a naturally occurring, higher-than-normal concentration of microscopic algae. In Florida, the species that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis. This organism produces toxins that can affect the central nervous system of aquatic organisms such as fish and marine mammals. Red tide toxins also pose a human health risk. The toxins can aerosolize and be carried to beaches with onshore winds, leading to respiratory irritation in people. Toxins can accumulate in shellfish and result in illnesses if contaminated shellfish are consumed. Shellfish harvesting areas are closed when blooms are present.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) researchers are currently monitoring two blooms along Florida’s Gulf coast, one located in northwest Florida and the other in southwest Florida.
“We confirmed the presence of both blooms in September, and they have persisted since that time,” said Alina Corcoran, FWC research scientist. “The bloom in the Panhandle is currently affecting Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay and Gulf counties. In southwest Florida, patchy blooms have been confirmed along Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties. Extensive fish kills and respiratory irritation have been associated with the bloom in the Panhandle but in southwest Florida the effects have been less.”