PALMA SOLA BAY – The last trace of red tide in Manatee County disappeared this week from its holdout position in Palma Sola Bay, but it has resurfaced in high concentrations in Sarasota County.
Most Florida waters are free from red tide as of Jan. 2, according to today’s report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
But high concentrations appeared in water samples off Lido Key and Siesta Key in Sarasota County that day, with medium concentrations at New Pass and low concentrations at Turtle Beach. Very low concentrations were found at Venice Beach, Nokomis Beach and Casperson Beach further south.
In Manatee County, no fish kills were reported, but respiratory irritation was reported on Dec. 30 at Coquina Beach and Dec. 27 and Dec. 29-30 at Manatee Beach, according to the FWC.
The weekend forecast through Monday, Jan. 7 is for low to high levels of red tide on Longboat Key and for low levels to the south, according to the University of South Florida/Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides.
Today’s NOAA report predicts moderate respiratory irritation on Saturday, Jan. 5 on south Manatee County’s Gulf coast, and low irritation Sunday and Monday, Jan. 6-7. In south Manatee County’s bay regions, NOAA predicts moderate irritation all three days.
The report notes that “concentrations are patchy in nature and levels of respiratory irritation will vary locally based upon nearby bloom concentrations, ocean currents, and wind speed and direction.”
A prediction by NOAA oceanographer Rick Stumpf that storms on Dec. 20-21 would likely end the bloom held true for only two weeks.
The resurgence of the bloom, in its 15th month, comes a week after other hopeful news – red tide was not found in any water samples collected in Florida waters as the Christmas holidays began other than the background concentration in Palma Sola Bay, and no red tide was forecast for the last week of the year.
The bloom began in Southwest Florida in October 2017 and arrived in Anna Maria Island waters on Aug. 3; it is lasting longer than the most recent record red tide of 2005-06.
Florida red tide, or Karenia brevis, is a type of microalgae that emits a neurotoxin when it blooms. Deadly to marine life, red tide also can make shellfish unfit to eat and can cause respiratory irritation in people.
Background concentrations of red tide cause no anticipated effects. Very low levels cause possible respiratory irritation. Low levels cause respiratory irritation, shellfish harvesting closures and possible fish kills. Medium levels cause respiratory irritation, shellfish harvesting closures and probable fish kills. High levels cause all the above, plus water discoloration.