Red tide grew dras­ti­cally along west coast in less than month

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Joe Mario Ped­er­sen

In a lit­tle less than three weeks, red tide bloom in­ten­si­fied greatly along Florida’s west coast, ac­cord­ing to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion’s Wed­nes­day re­port.

The pres­ence of the

also known as red tide, in­creased hugely over 100 miles of Florida’s Sun­coast from Col­lier County and stretch­ing north into Pinel­las County.

While red tide sam­ples were found in low con­cen­tra­tions in Pinel­las, high con­cen­tra­tions were found in Lee, Char­lotte and Col­lier coun­ties.

About 20 test­ing lo­ca­tions be­tween Sani­bel and Sara­sota showed highly con­cen­trated sam­ples of red tide.

The or­gan­ism’s pres­ence has been de­tected as far off­shore as 18 miles from Lee County.

While the east coast con­tin­ues to be spared, red tide tide bled par­tially into Florida’s Pan­han­dle, where it was ob­served in back­ground con­cen­tra­tions in one test­ing site be­tween Es­cam­bia and Bay coun­ties.

Be­tween 2017 and 2018, Florida’s beaches were rav­aged by red tide with over 150 miles of the west coast con­sumed by it.

Florida’s east coast also re­ported sam­ples of the or­gan­ism, which is un­usual due to the cold na­ture of the At­lantic, ac­cord­ing to the FWC.

Florida’s Pan­han­dle also suf­fered greatly es­pe­cially in Bay County af­ter Cat­e­gory 5 Hur­ri­cane Michael pushed red tide into the town of Mex­ico Beach with high flood wa­ters and storm surge.

Red tide is a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring phe­nom­e­non, but mas­sive blooms of the algae can lead to res­pi­ra­tory ir­ri­ta­tion for hu­mans, wa­ter dis­col­oration and marine life deaths be­cause of the lack of oxy­gen in the wa­ter.

Char­lotte County joined Sara­sota and Lee coun­ties in re­ported res­pi­ra­tory ir­ri­ta­tion week, FWC said.

Over 130 fish kill re­ports were cat­a­loged be­tween Sept. 1 and Nov. 20 with red tide listed as the cause of death, ac­cord­ing to the FWC’s fish kill data base. The ma­jor­ity of the fa­tal­i­ties were re­ported in Col­lier County around Naples and Marco Is­land.

Fish kills is a gen­eral term the FWC uses to de­scribe marine life and fa­tal­i­ties have in­cluded a large amount of mul­let and cat­fish, but also at least one sea tur­tle, crabs, sea snakes and at least one pel­i­can.

In 2018, 174 dol­phins died be­tween July 2018 and June 20, 2019 in Col­lier, Lee, Char­lotte, Sara­sota, Mana­tee, Hills­bor­ough and Pinel­las coun­ties, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Oceanic At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion. The re­ported deaths was con­sid­ered an “un­usu­ally high mor­tal­ity rate,” and many of the dol­phins tested pos­i­tive for the red tide toxin, NOAA re­ported.

A de­bate ex­ists on whether the pro­lific growth of red tide is hu­man re­lated as the algae can feed di­rectly on fer­til­izer runoff, which con­tains vast amounts of phos­pho­rous and ni­tro­gen, two key in­gre­di­ents for red tide, ac­cord­ing to the Mote Marine Lab­o­ra­tory and Aquar­ium. last

ANDREW WEST/AP

Dead fish are seen on the north end of Fort My­ers Beach on Oct. 17.

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