Red Tide Strikes Tampa Bay, Florida

red tide

Authorities confirmed that the Tampa Bay area of Florida was been hit by a red tide. The tide killed hundreds of fish, which washed up on shore.

Kelly Richmond, the communication manager of the Florida Wildlife Commission confirmed that this is the time of year when the red tide strikes Florida. He argued that it’s impossible to know how long it will be until the tide goes away. Apparently, there many different factors that affect the duration of a red tide.

The National Ocean Service believes that the cause of the red tide that has reached Tampa Bay is a microorganism known as Karenia brevis. When these miniscule organisms come together in large groups, they produce a poison that can kill shellfish, and make the air unbreathable. Fish are most affected by the red tide. Because of this tide, thousands of pinfish, trout, snook and groupers washed up on shore.

The counties with the largest number of dead fish were Manatee, Sarasota and Pinellasa. One wildlife rescuer, Justin Matthews, claims this is the worst red tide he has seen in his career. According to him, what makes matter worse is that birds eat the poisoned fish, and get sick as a result.

Humans should also steer clear of the affected areas. While the contamination is not deadly to humans, it can cause sever throat and eye irritations. People who have breathing problems should definitely avoid the area. People should also be extra careful if their pets come into contact with the contaminated areas.

Authorities recommend pet owners should wash them thoroughly if they’ve been near the areas. Dogs in particular can get very ill if they go into the poisoned water and then proceed to lick themselves, as they can ingest a large amount of contaminated water.

People living in these areas should also avoid eating freshly caught shellfish. Shellfish consume these the small algae, and, as a result, can become poisonous themselves.

What Is Red Tide?

Officials explained that the red tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon that has been well documented. The cause of this phenomenon is microscopic algae. Red tides occur every year in Florida, and they’ve been monitored since the 1840s.

In August or September, the population of Karenia brevis rises above average levels. Red tide start in the Gulf of Mexico, some 40 miles away from the shore. Winds and currents than bring the tide to land.

The official name of red tide is algae bloom. Red tides are so named because, in large concentrations, these microscopic organisms change the color of the water to red. However, red tides are only one instance of algae bloom. In other areas, the algae do not cause water discoloration, or they do not cause it to turn red.

According to the National Ocean Service website, not all algae blooms are harmful. In fact, some blooms are beneficial. They provide food for the animals living in the area. But Karenia brevis is different, since it also produces a harmful toxin. More than that, in very high concentrations, algae can consume the oxygen in a given area of water as they die and decompose. Fish start moving away, or die as a result.

Image Source: Wikimedia