All your questions about red tide answered here
Q: What happened?
On Saturday, multiple people on north county beaches complained of respiratory, skin and eye irritations, prompting a health advisory and the closure of beaches from the Martin County line to Lantana. The Karenia brevis algae, which causes red tide, is present in Palm Beach County’s coastal waters, according to test results from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Q: What is red tide?
Red tide is a bloom of the Karenia brevis algae that occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico. The algae is rare on Florida’s east coast because it prefers the calmer, more stratified water of the Gulf. This summer, one of the worst red tides on record was recorded, with massive fish kills and dead manatees, dolphins and turtles. The toxin affects the nervous system of marine life, causing paralysis in some cases.
Q: Will we see the same kind of fish kills?
Red tide is typically not as intense on Florida’s east coast as on its west coast because Atlantic waters are more active, which helps mix the water so it’s less stratified and has higher salinity throughout the water column. Red tide prefers salty water, but not as salty as full-strength seawater.
Q: Has coastal pollution caused the Florida red tide?
Harmful algae blooms thrive in nutrient-heavy environments. Hurricane Irma and heavy spring rainfall caused runoff heavy in nutrients to flood into Lake Okeechobee and the southwest watersheds that feed into the Gulf of Mexico.
Q: What does red tide smell like?
Red tide doesn’t have a scent. It releases a toxin as a defense mechanism, that when released into the air can cause coughing, runny noses and wheezing.
Q: Are red tide health effects permanent?
For most people, symptoms are temporary. People with chronic respiratory problems such as asthma and COPD should avoid red tide areas.
Q: How could it have reached the east coast?
It’s unusual for Florida’s east coast to get a red tide bloom. This year, it’s possible the red tide got caught in the loop current that flows through the Florida Straits and into the Gulf Stream. With strong easterly winds, the red tide may have been blown closer to the beach. Waves help to make the toxin into an aerosol.
Q: How long will red tide last?
Red tide can last for a few weeks to longer than a year. The current red tide bloom on the west coast began in October 2017. It peaked with the massive fish kills during the summer when onshore winds blew it toward the coast.
Q: What’s the difference between red tide and blue-green algae?
Red tide lives in salt water, while blue-green algae, which is actually a cyanobacteria, lives in fresh water. Lake Okeechobee and the northern estuaries have been plagued by a blue-green algae bloom all summer. Both red tide and blue-green algae thrive in high-nutrient environments, but more study is needed to determine how or whether the two interact.
Q: Are red tides red?
A high concentration of the Karenia brevis bloom can turn water brown.