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Best beaches to avoid red tide this weekend

Posted at 9:00 AM, Nov 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-22 09:00:05-05

SANIBEL, Fla. - If you plan to hit the beach this weekend there's a few spots that may be more appealing than others on Sanibel Island.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife, red tide is the cause for fish kill on this coast. As of Friday, there is a very low to medium concentration of red tide along the shore of Lee County.

Low to medium concentrations of red tide were also found along the shore of Sarasota, Charlotte, and Collier counties.

Holly Melbrandt, Sanibel's environmental biologist, says city workers were cleaning up dead fish at Gulf Side City Park, Tarpon Bay Beach, and Bowman's Beach.

"There were some new fish on the beach in the same areas where we were seeing them yesterday," Holly Melbrandt said. "But it seemed to be at lower concentration than what we saw yesterday."

She says the best options this weekend are Lighthouse Beach Park and Blind Pass Beach - neither have been hit by red tide.

"It's definitely safe to be in the water. Even what we have seen, even at the most affected beaches has been a relatively mild case of red tide."

It may be safe but anyone with respiratory problems may feel the affects of red tide.

"If you're one of those people who feels the effects - the respiratory effects- coughing, scratchy throat of red tide then perhaps being at an affected beach is not the best place for you," Melbrandt said.

The reason why red tide continues to claiming these waters is still unclear.

"We really still don't have a good handle on the factors of what causes a red tide to form. What's really interesting about red tide is they form off shore."

Red tide is an algae bloom that is formed by a single cell plant organism that local biologists say are present in southwest Florida waters all the time in low concentrations. Under some conditions, Melbrandt says the organisms start reproducing rapidly which creates a bloom situation impacting the local environment.

"It's a naturally occurring event," Melbrandt says. "There's no cure so there's no way to stop it but it's been occurring since the Spanish explorers were here long, long time ago and it just continues to occur. We don't have a good feel on what causes it to form or if there's anything we can do to stop it."

Adding there are other reasons why fish kills can happen.

"Storm water, ponds and lakes occasionally you'll see fish kills that happen in those kinds of areas but for the most part any time you see a large fish kill in the Gulf of Mexico it's related to red tide"

But some beach goers say the sight of dead fish is not as bad as it was the day before.

"There's just a lot of dead fish with their eyes pecked out," David Brookfield said. "They're lined up at high tide but there's very few fish down below. You really almost have to look for them to see them."

For others like Bill Grassey and his wife, a mild case of red tide isn't enough to keep him out of the water.

"I'm going home in a couple of days and it's going to be snowing out so I'll go in," Grassey said. "We'll go in we'll get our feet wet."