ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Red tide is not only killing fish in waters around the Island, but people are experiencing the trademark respiratory symptoms associated with the toxic algae.
Visitor Jackie Harling said she and her husband and daughter began having symptoms on July 20.
“We know for sure it was a red tide as the moment we opened our truck doors we all started coughing,” she said. “We loaded everything into our condo and spent the majority of the time in the condo until the next day where my husband and daughter were outside for a couple of hours and realized it was not a good situation. Even though I had been indoors most of the time, I was having trouble breathing.”
NOAA has issued a red tide respiratory warning for Manatee and surrounding counties, noting that impacts vary by location and with wind direction. Current forecasts of respiratory irritation are available at NOAA and at Mote.
Red tide-related respiratory irritation was reported in Manatee County at Coquina Beach and Manatee Beach, and in Sarasota, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, according to Friday’s Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission weekly report.
Red tide produces a neurotoxin called brevetoxin that can cause respiratory irritation, coughing, and more serious illness for people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema or COPD, according to the Florida Department of Health. Health officials recommend that people experiencing symptoms stay away from the water, go inside to an air-conditioned space, or wear masks, especially during onshore winds.
Manatee County registered high levels of red tide in water samples at the Longboat Pass boat ramp and 10th Street Pier on July 19.
Levels were medium at the Rod and Reel Pier in Anna Maria on July 19 and at the Seafood Shack Restaurant on July 22.
Low levels were detected at the Palma Sola Bay Bridge in Bradenton on July 19 and very low at Key Royale in Holmes Beach on July 15.
Levels ranged from background to high concentrations in 21 samples collected from Manatee County waters. The FWC also reported high concentrations of red tide in areas of Pinellas and Sarasota counties and medium levels in areas of Hillsborough County.
Red tide-related fish kills were reported over the past week in Manatee, Sarasota, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Hernando and Lee counties.
Health officials warn against swimming near dead fish, and advise keeping pets away from dead fish and seafoam, which can contain high concentrations of algae. Pets are not allowed on Anna Maria Island’s beaches, but are allowed on the Palma Sola Causeway on Manatee Avenue.
Officials also warn that consuming shellfish exposed to red tide can cause neurotoxic shellfish poisoning.
Gov. Ron DeSantis last week refused the request of conservation groups to declare a state of emergency due to ongoing red tide in and around Tampa Bay.
Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit on June 24 against the owners of Piney Point and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, claiming that the discharge of 215 million gallons of nutrient-rich wastewater from the Piney Point phosphogypsum stack in Manatee County could be feeding the algae bloom. The nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus act as fertilizer for the toxic red tide algae.
DeSantis said the state had budgeted money to mitigate red tide, and that the tourism industry could be harmed by declaring a state of emergency.
“It would have been very irresponsible to do that,” he said, adding that the Legislature has appropriated up to $100 million to “mothball Piney Point.”