The current red tide status in Southwest Florida for the weekend of February 24-26 shows elevated levels of red tide across the region. Red tide conditions show high concentrations were measured from Sarasota, Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, and Naples.
Over the past week, the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, was detected in 123 samples from and offshore of Southwest Florida. Bloom concentrations (>100,000 cells/liter)
were present in 75 samples: two in Pinellas County, seven in and offshore of Manatee County, 27 in and offshore of Sarasota County, seven in and offshore of Charlotte County, 22 in and offshore of Lee County, nine in and offshore of Collier County, and one offshore of Monroe County. We continue to use satellite imagery (USF and NOAA NCCOS) to help track this patchy event (see report map for imagery from 2/23).
Additional details are provided below.
- In Southwest Florida over the past week, K. brevis was observed at very low to medium concentrations in Pinellas County, very low to medium concentrations in and offshore of Manatee County, background to high concentrations in and offshore of Sarasota County, low to high concentrations in and offshore of Charlotte County, background to high concentrations in and offshore of Lee County, very low to high concentrations in and offshore of Collier County, and background to medium concentrations offshore of Monroe County.
- In Northwest Florida over the past week, K. brevis was not observed.
- Along the Florida East Coast over the past week, K. brevis was not observed.
Reports of fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were received in Southwest Florida over the past week from Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier counties.
Over the past week, respiratory irritation suspected to be related to red tide was reported via the Beach Conditions Reporting System and/or the Fish Kill Hotline in Southwest Florida in Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier counties.
The Florida Department of Health in Collier County (DOH-Collier) has issued a Health Alert for the presence of red tide near Marco Island Beach and Barefoot Beach.
The public should exercise caution in and around these areas. Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:
• Look for informational signage posted at most beaches.
Stay away from the water, and do not swim in waters with dead fish.
• Those with chronic respiratory problems should be especially cautious and stay away from this location as red tide can affect your breathing.
Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish, or distressed or dead fish from this location. If caught live and healthy, finfish are safe to eat as long as they are filleted and the guts are discarded. Rinse fillets with tap or bottled water.
• Wash your skin and clothing with soap and fresh water if you have had recent contact with red tide.
Keep pets and livestock away and out of the water, sea foam and dead sea life. If your pet swims in waters with red tide, wash it as soon as possible.
• Residents living in beach areas are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner. Make sure that the A/C filter is maintained according to manufacturer’s specifications.
If outdoors near an affected location, residents may choose to wear masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing.
What is red tide?
Red tide is one type of harmful algal bloom caused by high concentrations of the toxic dinoflagellate Karenia brevis (K. brevis), a type of microscopic algae found in the Gulf of Mexico. Red tide typically forms naturally offshore, commonly in late summer or early fall, and is carried into coastal waters by winds and currents. Once inshore, these opportunistic organisms can use nearshore nutrient sources to fuel their growth. Blooms typically last into winter or spring, but in some cases, can endure for more than one year.
Is it harmful?
K. brevis produces potent neurotoxins (brevetoxins) that can be harmful to the health of both wildlife and people. Wind and wave action can break open K. brevis cells and release toxins into the air and trigger a red tide alert. This is why you should monitor conditions and use caution when visiting affected water bodies. People in coastal areas can experience varying degrees of eye, nose and throat irritation during a red tide bloom. Some individuals with chronic respiratory conditions like asthma or chronic lung disease might experience more severe symptoms.
Red tide toxins can also affect the central nervous system of fish and other marine life, which can lead to fish kills 2 and increased wildlife strandings or mortalities. Eating contaminated seafood can cause neurotoxic shellfish poisoning in humans. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting; tingling of the mouth, lips and tongue; and slurred speech and dizziness. For a daily chart on Red Tide, go to MyFWC.com/redtidemap/