Red tide’s return necessitates warnings once again at most county beaches

Siesta and Turtle beaches only ones without red tide problems as of mid-week

This is the signage used to alert visitors to the presence of red tide at a county-operated beach. Image courtesy Sarasota County

With Mote Marine Laboratory having found elevated counts of red tide algae cells in many of the Sarasota County beach water samples taken on Sept. 27, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) announced on Sept. 29 that its staff was in the process of changing the signs at the affected beaches to show that red tide is present.

Those beaches are Longboat Key, Bird Key Park, North Lido, Lido Casino, South Lido, Nokomis Beach, North Jetty, Venice Beach, Service Club, Venice Fishing Pier, Brohard, Caspersen, Manasota Key, and Blind Pass, a DOH-Sarasota news release announced. “Only two beaches had zero cells and will not be posted at this time (Siesta Key and Turtle),” the advisory added.

The DOH-Sarasota weekly sample results are posted at www.ourgulfenvironment.net, the release noted.

“Some people may have mild and short-lived respiratory symptoms such as eye, nose, and throat irritation,” DOH-Sarasota pointed out. The symptoms are similar to those associated with the common cold or seasonal sinus allergies, the release added. “Some individuals with existing breathing problems such as asthma might experience more severe effects.”

Usually, DOH-Sarasota noted, “[S]ymptoms go away when a person leaves the beach or goes indoors.” Health officials recommend that people who are sensitive to red tide, as well as those experiencing symptoms, avoid the beach or go into an air-conditioned space. “If symptoms do not subside, contact your health care provider for evaluation,” the release advised the public.

The Gulf of Mexico is clear of red tide about 12 miles offshore of Siesta Key on Sept. 27. Image courtesy FWC

In its mid-week update, released late in the afternoon of Sept. 29, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reported bloom concentrations of the red tide algae, Karenia brevis — more than 100,000 cells per liter — in nine samples collected at Sarasota County beaches and offshore over the previous seven days. Only Pinellas County had more samples showing bloom concentrations for the same period — 14.

FWC listed seven counties where Karenia brevis was found present at such high levels, including Walton and Okaloosa.

Altogether, the report noted, 22 samples showed background to high concentrations of red tide in and offshore of Sarasota County over the past seven days.

Further, the report said that fish kills suspected to be related to red tide once more had been reported in Sarasota County.

This is the red tide forecast for the west coast of Florida for the period of Sept. 29 through Oct. 2. Image courtesy FWC and the University of South Florida

For current beach conditions, DOH-Sarasota recommends that individuals check Mote Marine’s website, https://visitbeaches.org/.

A Sarasota News Leader spot check of Mote’s reports on county beaches on the morning of Sept. 30 found that at the Venice North Jetty, the water color was listed as “Moderate,” but no beach debris or respiratory irritation was noted. The report did say that some dead fish were on the shoreline.

At Siesta Public Beach, the water was labeled “Clear,” and no beach debris, dead fish or respiratory irritation was indicated.

The 9:17 a.m. report for Longboat Key said the water color was “Clear,” and that respiratory irritation and dead fish were not evident. However, “Some” beach debris was noted.

The DOH-Sarasota release also points out that National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) forecasts for Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in the Gulf of Mexico may be found at https://coastalscience.noaa.gov/research/stressor-impacts-mitigation/hab-forecasts/gulf-of-mexico/.

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