First signs of red tide detected near Florida’s Gulf Coast

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  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has detected the presence of the phytoplankton that causes red tide, Karenia brevis, in low concentrations in waters off the Southwest Florida coast.

Between May 2 and May 9, low concentrations between 1,000 and 10,000 cells per liter were found between Longboat Key and Bradenton Beach in Sarasota County and the intracoastal waters of Lemon Bay south of Englewood in Charlotte County.

State officials say that’s enough to cause minor cases of respiratory irritation and will temporarily shut down any shellfish harvesting in the region. They note that no fish kills related to red tide were reported last week.

Background concentrations of less than 1,000 cells per liter were also found in Lee County, officials say.

In the last year, local governments have spent roughly $17 million provided by the state to combat outbreaks of red tide and toxic blue-green algae, which have caused massive fish kills and sent pungent odors wafting through the region.

Though the phytoplankton have consistently been detected off the Gulf Coast, last year, its presence was also found on the state’s East Coast, as blooms made their way up through Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. By November, it had been detected in Brevard County.

The next report on the algae concentrations will be released on Friday.

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