Recent readings taken in waters along the West coast of Florida show an increase in the number of organisms that cause red tide. This could signal the start of the largest red tide event since the massive outbreak of 2005.
According to a report published today in the Bradenton Herald, water samples taken from many locations along the Southwest Florida coast are showing spikes in the number of Karenia brevis, the microscopic algae responsible for most of the red tide outbreaks in Florida Gulf coast waters. When the algae population reaches a certain point, K. brevis produces toxins that affect the central nervous systems of fish, potentially causing death. When the toxins become airborne through rough seas or very windy conditions, human respiratory systems are also affected.
The number of fish kills reported along the coast are already on the increase. Thousands of fish were found dead near Manasota Key on December 26, and more than 5,000 were reported dead last week near Blind Pass Key. Mote Marine Laboratory has issued this status report: “A bloom of K. brevis extends alongshore of the southwest coast between southern Sarasota and Collier counties and offshore of the lower Florida Keys. Respiratory irritation and multiple fish kills have also been reported this week in the affected areas.”
Whether this outbreak turns into another marine disaster for the Florida coast is difficult to predict. According to Hayley Rutger of Mote Marine, “Florida red tide depends on biology, chemistry of the water, and physics -- winds, waves and weather moving the algae around."