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Where is the red tide?

Birds continue to be treated at CROW with suspected red tide exposure.
Posted at 5:09 PM, Jun 06, 2024

SANIBEL, Fla. — If you think back to about a year ago, many of our Southwest Florida beaches were covered in fish. That was because of the severe red tide we had. But where is that red tide this year? And are we still seeing signs of it out in the middle of the gulf? Those are questions that Fox 4 Meteorologist brought to the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation.

“If you are breathing it, it’s one thing. If you are seeing dead fish wash up on the beach, it’s one thing,” said Matt DePaolis, the Enviromental Policy Director with SCCF. “But if it’s somewhere offshore and not having those impacts, then it’s easy to forget. But that does mean it isn’t active somewhere else.”

But where that somewhere else is, is a big question for researchers. Recently birds have come into CROW, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, sick from Brevetoxins suspected from red tide exposure.

“These shorebirds, they eat a lot of the small bait fish, to ones more likely to have to red tide toxics in their body because they are so small,” said Matt DePaolis.

“And when those birds eat those small fish, taking the toxin in, they are able to transport themselves pretty far because they are birds,” said Matt DePaolis. “So, when they land of the coast, in our coastal environment, they can succumb of the suspect brevetoxicosis without actually experiencing the bloom in the environment.”

So, where is the red tide? NOAA, FWC, and even SCCF sample the water for red tide at least weekly and have only found background concentrations of the algae. DePaolis says it could be because we don’t really have a good picture of the waters further out into the gulf. Something he calls a blind spot

“So, if there is a large red tide bloom that is active in the gulf, but it’s not in one of those sites that is being monitored, then we have no way of knowing it's out there,” said Matt DePaolis.

And while red tide might be brewing out in the gulf, DePaolis said there is no immediate cause for concern, but this should still be reminder of how important it is to keep up with our environmentally smart practices.

“Right now, when the water is beautiful, it's easy to not think twice about watering your lawn a little bit extra after a rainstorm or applying extra fertilizer,” said Matt DePaolis. “That’s why we really need to understand the causes of these harmful algal blooms and try to work on taking these nutrients out of water, before they cause problems.