It has been more than 20 months since Boca Grande experienced the last big episode, but on Tuesday afternoon, it could be detected in the air and dead fish were seen on our beaches on Wednesday morning.
A large algae bloom was detected two weeks ago off of Sarasota and it has been slowly moving south. Locally, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission scientists were conducting aerial surveys for spawning redfish when researchers first found evidence of a “huge fish kill” about four miles west of the north end off Cayo Costa on Monday.
Red tide, whose scientific name is Karenia brevis, is produced by a single-cell alga and is commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico waters. At low, normal concentrations, fewer than 1,000 cells per liter of water, Karenia is not a problem and is not toxic. The problem occurs when the algae blooms into mass concentrations. Its name is a misnomer because algae blooms are not associated with tides.
Some sources say that Florida’s red tide blooms are about 10 to 15 more times abundant as they were 50 years ago. When the algae blooms into high concentrations, the water can take on a reddish or pink color, thus the name “red tide.”
Red tide wreaks havoc on the ecosystem, particularly in regard to fish kills. Dense concentrations of red tide organisms can suffocate fish by clogging or irritating their gills, so that they cannot get oxygen from the water. Secondly, these algae produce potent neurotoxins called brevetoxins, which cause gastrointestinal and neurological problems, and leads to paralysis in the fish.
Red tide can also greatly exaggerate breathing problems for those who suffer from COPD, emphysema, asthma and similar problems.
Let’s keep our fingers and toes crossed that the prevailing winds shift. It’s the winds that come from the northwest that push the red tide close to our beaches. If the wind comes from the east, we can look forward to a beautiful winter season.
To track red tide, visit myfwc.com/ research/redtide/events/status/ statewide/ or you can call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (866) 300-9399.
E-mail (required, but will not display)
Notify me of follow-up comments
Click for a larger view