Red Tide Returns to Southwest Florida

By Jessica Simmons

Unfortunately, during a time where outdoor activities are being sought out after than ever, and during the season where Southwest Florida’s beaches are typically a popular destination, a new red tide bloom is emerging. The 2017/2018 red tide occurrence was unusually long and caused significant economic damage to tourism-related industries, in addition to devastating sea life.

Red tide is an algae bloom caused by the species Karenia Brevis. It produces a toxin known to cause respiratory irritation to people in and around the affected waters. This toxin neurologically causes damage to marine life, and in some cases, fatally. The algae bloom can also cause fish kills by reducing oxygen levels in the water.

People with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD advises avoiding areas affected by red tide. In addition to the known effects on breathing, there is ongoing research into whether there could be long term neurological effects in exposed humans.

Red tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon, but some evidence shows that human factors can exacerbate it. Algae blooms are in some cases fueled by nutrients that come from fertilizer contaminated runoff water.

Currently, measurable red tide levels are discovered in coastal waters ranging from Charlotte to Collier counties, with the highest levels found in Lee county. These levels will likely change throughout the current algae bloom. You can monitor these conditions here: https://myfwc.com/research/redtide/statewide/.

Jessica Simmons

Staff Writer – Community

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