Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County issues update based on water samples
Sarasota County beachgoers received an early holiday present from the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota): The Red Tide Advisory posted for all 16 county beaches on Nov. 10 was lifted on Dec. 21.
In an announcement just after 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the Health Department staff wrote, “The beach advisory signs have been changed at all beaches.
“There are no advisories in place for any beaches in Sarasota County at this time,” the announcement added.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) did not release a midweek report that day, as it has been doing over the past couple of months. The agency’s most recent update prior to the deadline for this issue of The Sarasota News Leader — released on Dec. 16 — made it clear that the red tide algae, Karenia brevis, no longer was showing up in Sarasota County at the high levels noted in past reports this fall.
In that Dec. 16 update, FWC said that the bloom concentrations — with more than 100,000 cells of the algae per liter of water — were found in only four samples collected in Sarasota County over the week prior to that update.
Additionally, FWC continued, four bloom concentration samples were collected in Manatee County, along with two in Charlotte County.
The red tide bloom that had been plaguing Sarasota County’s coastline had moved north, that report indicated, as bloom concentrations were detected in 18 samples collected in and offshore of Pinellas County over the week leading up to Dec. 16.
On Dec. 14, FWC had noted bloom concentrations in 10 samples collected in Sarasota County over the seven days up to that date. At the time, the agency reported, the only county with a higher level was Pinellas, with 17 samples.
The Dec. 16 update also pointed out that Karenia brevis was found in “background to high concentrations in Sarasota County” over the previous week. FWC added that the algae “was observed at background to high concentrations in and offshore of Pinellas County,” and in high concentrations in Hillsborough County.
As the News Leader has reported, David Tomasko, executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, has linked the recent red tide problems to the high volume of stormwater that flowed into the Gulf of Mexico following Hurricane Ian’s strike on Southwest Florida in late September.
He wrote in the nonprofit’s Winter 2022 Bay Reflections newsletter, “Stormwater runoff adds nutrients to the bay, which can feed or worsen existing algal blooms.”
The first FWC red tide status report following Ian’s landfall to include details about problems for Sarasota County’s shoreline was issued on Oct. 21. That update noted “background to high concentrations [of the algae] in and offshore of Sarasota County.”
FWC began midweek red tide updates on Nov. 9, as the bloom’s effects began to have more of an impact on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
DOH-Sarasota recommends that individuals planning to visit the Sarasota County shoreline check Mote Marine Laboratory’s daily reports on beaches with lifeguards, which may be found at https://visitbeaches.org.
The Health Department itself posts regular advisories about beach water test results on its website.
FWC posts its red tide status updates on its website.