Florida Beaches Run Red

Red Tide Hits Southwest Florida


Emma Bowman

The sun rising over the coast of Destin, Florida.

   Since early February a toxic algae called Red Tide has been found in the waters off the Southwest coast of Florida. This algae causes harm to humans, marine life, and the surrounding environment. 

   The algae is formally known as the single-celled Karenia brevis, a microorganism commonly found living in the lakes and oceans near Florida Gulf Coast. When this algae multiplies it turns into an Algae Bloom and transforms into Brevetoxin or better known as Red Tide. The name Red Tide stems from the reddish brown color that the water takes on after being affected by this algae. 

   It’s been reported that fish are turning up dead and respiratory issues are becoming more prevalent because of the increasing levels of the algae in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, currently it is at rates ranging from 10,000 cells per liter of water to more than one million cells per liter. Which is when it becomes harmful to humans causing; breathing problems, coughing and sneezing, sore eyes, skin and throat irritation as well as asthma attack. You can be exposed to this toxin by breathing in sea spray or by swimming in the water that has Red Tide. People who eat shellfish affected by this toxin can come down with Neurotoxic Shellfish poisoning, which causes gastrointestinal problems along with other health risks. 

   Areas surrounding Tampa all the way down to Naples are dealing with the worst of this algae, including Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasosta, Charlotte, Lee and Collier county.  Local business owners in the affected areas communicated with news stations that they are concerned that the Red Tide will negatively impact the economy. After the devastating category four hurricane, Hurricane Ian, that destroyed most of southwest Florida many of these businesses are still rebounding. With it officially being Spring Break season many tourists will be flocking to Florida, which usually is the best time for businesses but the Red Tide might scare off potential customers. 

   If you are heading down south this Spring Break season beware of the toxic waters. The link below offers a constantly updated map of the amount of algae in certain areas of Florida.