Red Tide Florida Beaches: Tourists Urged to Stay Away!

Red tide on Florida beaches, a harmful phenomenon that can discolor coastal waters and result in the death of marine life, has resurfaced once again this year. The toxic organism responsible for turning the waters red was identified in February and has been discovered in elevated concentrations in several counties in Southwest Florida over the past few days, according to state officials.

Since its return, disturbing images of deceased fish washing up on the shores of Florida have become more common, and federal agencies are cautioning individuals about the potential for respiratory irritation caused by polluted air.

Why it’s called “red tide”

The phenomenon of “red tide Florida beaches” occurs when toxic algae in oceans and other bodies of water multiply in large numbers, forming harmful algal blooms that can pose a danger to people and marine life. While most algae species are not toxic, Karenia brevis is a potentially dangerous species that appears annually along Florida’s Gulf Coast. This microscopic organism uses flagella to swim, and when it multiplies, it can turn the water a reddish-brown color, hence the name “red tide.” Red tides have been observed in Florida’s Gulf Coast for over a century, and although scientists cannot predict when they will occur, Florida officials are working on prevention and mitigation strategies to minimize their impact.

Algae have the ability to harm both fish and humans

Karenia brevis, a type of harmful algae, can be lethal to fish and wildlife while also posing a threat to human health. Brevetoxins produced by this red tide organism can cause skin irritation in humans, as well as coughing or congestion if they become airborne near the beach.

Ingesting shellfish contaminated with brevetoxins can lead to Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning, which triggers gastrointestinal problems, numbness in the mouth, and reversed hot and cold sensations, among other symptoms.

To protect themselves, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission advises people to avoid swimming in or around red tide waters, as exposure can cause skin irritation, rashes, and burning or sore eyes. Those with asthma or lung disease should steer clear of beaches impacted by the toxic algae.

In the event of contact with red tide water, Florida health officials recommend washing off with soap and water and moving to an air-conditioned space.

What’s happening in Florida

The situation in Florida is concerning. Reports from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reveal that cases of respiratory illness in people and dead fish have been reported in various counties, including Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier. The suspected cause of these incidents is red tide, a harmful algal bloom. Videos from local TV stations depict dead fish littering the beaches, and other marine creatures have also reportedly been affected by the poisonous algae.

Moreover, there is still a threat to human health. The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science has predicted a high risk of respiratory irritation from the red tide at certain beaches in Charlotte, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties. Local businesses are concerned about the negative impact of the red tide on tourism and the economy of southern Florida. The potential consequences of the red tide on Florida’s beaches are worrisome.

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