When you think of Florida and our beaches are the first thing that comes to most everyone’s mind. Tampa Bay is known for its crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches. It’s definitely not the brown/red water and the beaches filled with dead fish and the not so appealing odor that accompanies toxic algae. But that’s what has happened to Florida’s beaches over the past year and it is due to what’s called Red Tide. Today, the team at Dolphin Quest shares more about what Red Tide is and shares a 2018 Red Tide update for Tampa Bay.
What is Red Tide?
Red Tide is a common name for a naturally occurring worldwide phenomenon known as an algal bloom. This is not the first time Florida has experienced Red Tide— Red Tide has been documented in Florida as early as the 1840s and when the algal bloom has higher than normal concentration of microscopic alga it can be harmful. The species that causes Red Tide in Florida and parts of the Gulf of Mexico is called Karenia brevis” or “K. brevis.” When K. brevis blooms in higher concentrations it can kill marine life and cause skin and respiratory irritation in humans.
Red Tide typically forms 10-40 miles offshore and the effects of the Red Tide depend on wind condition (speed and direction) as well as ocean currents. It can last as little as a couple weeks to longer than a year. And that is exactly what is happening now—the current Red Tide has been affecting our area since October 2017. Just this past August, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Florida. This declaration gave funding and resources to the counties for animal rescue and clean up. This is great news as our shorelines are receiving the help it needs to make our beaches and water beautiful again!
Red Tide Status Near Tampa
As the shorelines are improving it is still possible to swim and enjoy the beaches and marine life. If you are extra cautious or curious as to know what the conditions are of each beach, you can visit www.visitbeaches.org for a complete breakdown. In regards to the Red Tide, you can see if any of these conditions are present:
- Dead fish
- Beach debris
- Respiratory irritation
- Red drift and its location
- Unusual water color
As of this blog post, 5 out of the 6 beaches in Pinellas County were safe (Indian Shores, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, St. Pete, and Clearwater). The beach that did have some feedback was Pass-a-Grille. It has slight respiratory irritation and dark water but in regards to Red Tide it had no red drift and no dead fish/jellyfish or debris. Of course, this may change with Hurricane Michael making landfall in the northern part of Florida.
While many people still enjoy the beaches and water activities during Red Tide, it still is important to use common sense particularly if you currently suffer with respiratory issues.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen red tide conditions near Tampa improve on most of our beaches. Now that Hurricane Michael has passed we will see if it will make red tide conditions better. Until then, the Madeira Beach area where Dolphin Quest sails from has been deemed clear.
If you would like to experience the extraordinary marine life, then book our John’s Pass dolphin sightseeing cruise today! For more information about our Tampa eco tour, Red Tide updates, or to check availability, please call us at (727) 392-7090.