ANNA MARIA ISLAND – The Florida Department of Health in Manatee County has issued an alert for the presence of red tide in local waters.
Based on samples taken Nov. 7, a red tide bloom in varying degrees was shown at Bayfront Park, Coquina Beach South, Longboat Pass/Coquina Boat Ramp and Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) red tide status map on Nov. 17 showed a range in concentrations from very low at Rod & Reel Pier to medium at Longboat Pass.
Red tide is a type of algal bloom caused by high concentrations of Karenia brevis, a microscopic algae found in the Gulf of Mexico.
Wind and wave action can break open K. brevis cells and release toxins into the air, according to the health department. People should monitor conditions and use caution when visiting affected water bodies. Those in coastal areas can experience 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 typically forms naturally offshore, commonly in late summer or early fall, and is carried into coastal waters by winds and currents. Once inshore, nutrient sources may fuel growth, according to the health department.
Soon after Hurricane Ian hit, some areas to the south of Manatee County experienced high levels of the toxic algae and local water quality experts were uncertain whether or not it would spread to the north.
“I never predict,” Dr. David Tomas- ko, executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, told The Sun in October. “Hopefully, this doesn’t get bigger. The wind is out of the west pushing water toward shore – that’s not going to help us.”
According to the FWC on Nov. 17, “Reports of fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were received over the past week in Southwest Florida in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties.”
Also on Nov. 17, the FWC website stated that respiratory irritation suspected to be related to red tide was reported over the past week in southwest Florida in those same areas.
“Red tide toxins can also affect the central nervous system of fish and other marine life, which can lead to fish kills and increased wildlife strandings or mortalities,” a DOH press release stated. “Eating contaminated seafood can cause neurotoxic shellfish poisoning in humans.”
“Please note that it is safe to eat shellfish that are commercially harvested and sold in fish markets, restaurants and other outlets,” the Mote Marine website states. “Florida has a well-established monitoring program for all commercial shellfish beds and these beds are closed when affected by red tide or other environmental conditions.”
For local shellfish harvesting status results, visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The FWC collects and analyzes red tide samples and results are updated daily. Status updates are issued twice weekly during blooms.
To hear a recording about red tide conditions throughout the state, call the toll-free hotline at 866-300-9399.
To report fish kills, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute on the FWC reporter app, call 1-800-636-0511, or report online.
The DOH warns the public to take the following precautions in and around affected areas:
• Look for informational signage posted at most beaches.
• Stay away from the water.
• Do not swim in waters with dead fish.
• Those with chronic respiratory problems should be especially cautious and stay away from affected locations as red tide can adversely affect your breathing.
• Do not harvest or eat shellfish, distressed or dead fish from affected locations. 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 from and out of the water, seafoam and dead sea life. If your pet swims in waters with red tide, wash your pet as soon as possible.
• Residents living in beach areas are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner, making 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.
To get answers to questions about red tide and its effects, contact the health department in Manatee County at 941-748- 0747.