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Red Tide lurking off Southwest Florida coast

Red Tide lingering around Southwest Florida
Posted at 10:28 PM, Jan 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-30 12:33:46-05

Algal blooms have been reported along the Southwest Florida coast recently, from Venice all the way to Naples. Boaters off Boca Grande reported a foul smell Sunday.

“Every captain on the 9 boat crews we were running, along with the 18 clients, were coughing and hacking,” said charter captain Rhett Morris.

Morris says he didn’t notice any dead fish in passes or on the beach, but he doesn’t think it will be very long before they start showing up. “The scary thing is as the waters warm up there is a question of whether we are going to have a repeat of last year or not.”

In 2018, red tide, fueled by nutrient-rich runoff from Lake Okeechobee, ravaged marine life up and down the coast.

Florida Gulf Coast University professor of Marine Sciences Greg Tolley says this is that same batch of red tide, it just happens to be far off shore. "This has been a very long red tide, in terms of its duration, probably the 5th longest in history of recorded red tide, for some reason this has been hanging around longer."

In the mid-90's Florida had a red tide event that lasted two and a half years according to Tolley, but the state's population has swelled since then. "The big question people are asking are is Florida growing too much to where our nutrient input into the coastal waters may be allowed to hang around longer, or even intensify,” said Tolley.

Boaters are worried that a change in the wind and currents could bring that red tide much closer to shore over the next couple days.