Recent FWC reports show lower concentrations of red tide algae in samples
On Feb. 8, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) issued an advisory to remind the public that red tide remains evident at all 16 Sarasota County beaches.
Approximately two hours later, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) noted that six bloom concentrations of the red tide algae had been detected over the past week in Sarasota County.
“Bloom concentration” is the designation given to water samples when more than 100,000 cells of the algae, Karenia brevis, are present, FWC has explained.
In comparison, FWC reported that it had found bloom concentrations in 10 samples from Sarasota County over the week prior to its Dec. 14, 2022 update. About five weeks earlier — on Nov. 9, 2022 — FWC noted bloom concentrations in 40 Sarasota County samples.
In its Feb. 8, midweek red tide update, FWC staff wrote that bloom concentrations were present in 31 samples collected in Southwest Florida over the prior seven days. Lee County had the largest number: 19. Two samples from the Gulf of Mexico offshore of Collier County also had bloom concentrations, FWC said.
Moreover, in that Feb. 8 update, FWC reported that respiratory irritation suspected to be related to red tide had been reported at multiple Sarasota County beaches over the past week: Lido Key, Manasota Key, Nokomis, Siesta Key, Venice, and Venice North Jetty Beach.
In its previous update, released on Feb. 3, FWC reported that bloom concentrations had been found in only one Sarasota County sample over the prior seven days. Further, it noted that reports of fish kills believed to have been related to red tide had occurred over the previous week in Sarasota and Lee counties.
Likewise, in FWC’s Feb. 1 red tide report, it noted only one bloom concentration sample from Sarasota County over the previous seven days. The agency added that Karenia brevis had been observed at “background to medium concentrations in Sarasota County” over the week prior to release of that report.
DOH-Sarasota explained in its advisory that it had received results from water samples taken Monday, Feb. 6, showing that red tide continues to be detected in low to medium levels at the following beaches: North Lido Beach, Lido Casino Beach, South Lido Beach, Siesta Key Beach, Turtle Beach, Nokomis Beach, North Jetty Beach, Venice Beach, Service Club Beach, Venice Fishing Pier, Brohard Beach, Casperson Beach, Manasota Key Beach, and Blind Pass Beach, the advisory said.
Additionally, Longboat Key Beach and Bird Key Park/Ringling Causeway were added to the advisory on Feb. 8, DOH-Sarasota noted, “as both beaches are showing low to medium levels of red tide present.”
“While current red tide cell counts remain at low to medium levels,” DOH-Sarasota pointed out, some people may have mild and short-lived respiratory symptoms,” such as eye, nose and throat irritation, akin to those “associated with the common cold or seasonal sinus allergies.”
The department added, “Some individuals with existing breathing problems, such as asthma, might experience more severe effects.
“Usually,” DOH-Sarasota continued, “symptoms stop when a person leaves the beach or goes indoors.
“Health officials recommend that people who are sensitive to red tide or experiencing symptoms avoid the beach or go into an air-conditioned space,” the advisory said.
If symptoms do not subside, DOH-Sarasota staff suggests that an individual contact the person’s health care provider for an evaluation.
DOH-Sarasota staff also provided following recommendations:
- “Do not swim around dead fish.
- “If you have chronic respiratory problems, consider staying away from the beach as red tide can affect your breathing.
- “Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish and distressed or dead fish. If fish are healthy, rinse fillets with tap or bottled water and throw out the guts.
- “Keep pets and livestock away from water, sea foam, and dead sea life.
- “Residents living in beach areas who experience respiratory symptoms are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner (ensuring that the A/C filter is maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications).
- “If outdoors, residents may choose to wear paper filter masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing.”
Additionally, the advisory pointed out that Florida Poison Control Centers have a toll-free 24/7 hotline for reporting illnesses, including health effects from exposure to red tide. That number is 1-888-222-1222.
For more information about red tide, the DOH-Sarasota staff suggests individuals check the following:
- DOH-Sarasota weekly water sample results are posted at www.ourgulfenvironment.net.
- FWC provides twice weekly reports on red tide for the state at https://myfwc.com/research/redtide/statewide/, including a sampling map that is updated daily.
- Current beach conditions may be checked on Mote Marine’s website, https://visitbeaches.org/.