The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) has reported elevated levels of red tide at area beaches in south Sarasota County. DOH-Sarasota will be posting signage at several beaches to advise the public that red tide is present.
The beaches with elevated levels of red tide include Turtle Beach, Nokomis Beach, North Jetty, Venice Beach, Service Club Park, Venice Fishing Pier, Brohard Beach, and Caspersen Beach.
Since Hurricane Ian made landfall three weeks ago, scientists have been concerned that the massive amount of water the hurricane dumped onto the state makes its way out toward the coast is carrying the ingredients for a severe harmful algal bloom, like red tide.
In 2018, less than a year after Hurricane Irma made landfall, Sarasota experienced one of its worst red tide blooms in history. Suncoast Waterkeeper founder Justin Bloom told us last week that he sees "a lot of evidence pointing toward a significant role played by extreme weather events in creating conditions in which harmful algal blooms thrive.”
DOH-Sarasota did not comment on a cause for the elevated levels.
In some people, red tide can cause mild and generally short-lived respiratory symptoms such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, similar to the common cold or seasonal sinus allergies. Some people with existing breathing problems, such as asthma, might experience more severe effects.
Usually, symptoms stop when a person leaves the beach or goes indoors. Health officials recommend that people who are sensitive to red tide or experiencing symptoms avoid the beach or go into an air-conditioned space.
Take the following precautions when dealing with red tide:
- Do not swim around dead fish.
- If you have chronic respiratory problems, consider staying away from the beach as red tide can affect your breathing.
- Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish and distressed or dead fish. If fish are healthy, rinse fillets with tap or bottled water and throw out the guts.
- Keep pets and livestock away from water, sea foam, and dead sea life.
- Residents living in beach areas who experience respiratory symptoms are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner (ensuring that the A/C filter is maintained according to the manufacturer's specifications).
- If outdoors, residents may choose to wear paper filter masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing.
For more information about red tide, visit the following websites:
- DOH Sarasota weekly sample results are posted here
- FWC is doing twice weekly updates on red tide for the state here, including a sampling map that is updated daily.
- Current beach conditions can be checked at Mote Marine's website,
- NOAA provides a Gulf of Mexico HAB forecast (updated twice weekly while a bloom persists) that can be found here
- Florida Poison Control Centers have a toll-free 24/7 Hotline for reporting illnesses, including health effects from exposure to red tide, available at (888) 232-8635.