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High to medium levels of red tide in Lee County

Posted at 6:51 PM, Nov 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-21 18:52:00-05

CAPTIVA, Fla. -- Red tide in Lee and Charlotte Counties is causing concern for some, while others are enjoying clear water.

Florida Fish and Wildlife officials have detected background to high levels of Red tide in eleven sample collected from Lee County. They also detected background to low levels in eight Charlotte County samples. Florida Red Tide is caused by an organism called Karenia brevis. Levels were particularly high at Captiva Pass and the South Seas Plantation entrance over the weekend. 

Water in Captiva was crystal clear, Tuesday, but it was apparent that residents heard about red tide warnings. "My first thought was the red tide, the dead fish on the beach, the smell," said one beach goer who opted to stay out of the water. "For us who live here year round, I would think it would be a deterant." 

However, there was no fish kill or bad smell. Because the water was so clear, some decided it was safe. "It went through my mind when we were coming up that we might have a problem with the red tide, but so far it's been great," said Barke Good. 

Good has experienced red tide before and knows the health affects associated. "I was really coughing and I felt the tickling in my throat," he said about a prior experience.

According to health experts, exposure to red tide could irritate certain conditions. "It's particularly bad for people who may already have respiratory compromise, like if you have asthma, it might really bother you or take you longer to recover," said Dr. Heather Barron at CROW Clinic.

Dr. Barron works with animals at CROW, but also tracks how the environment can impact humans. Ingesting shellfish that have been contaminated by red tide may also be a risk. When CROW sees an influx of sick birds and fish, they alert health authorities. "If it is unacceptably high levels in some areas, they can put signs out warning people to not eat the shellfish."

Meanwhile, local businesses are taking note of the red tide, and are hoping for the best as the busy holiday weekend approaches. Some tell 4 In Your Corner there was a notable drop-off in tourism last year because of water quality issues. "The tourists come in three days before Thanks Giving and leave about four days after," explains Shnapper's Hots owner David Acheson. "[Last year] tourism was off. Some restaurants say they were off as much as 20%."

Acheson believes red tide is amplified by Caloosahatchee water releases. The Army Corps of Engineers has, however, slowed down releases from Lake Okeechobee recently because water levels are starting to decline. "So there are good days, and bad days depending on the release," Acherson said. "Here at Shnappers, we like to have a good attitude regardless."