Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Anglers wary about Red Tide

ST. PETERSBURG

Nothing creates more confusion and anguish among anglers than the words "Red Tide."

For weeks now, a harmful algae bloom has been lingering 5 to 20 miles offshore between Tarpon Springs and Dixie County. There have been reports of fish kills in deep water, but as of today, there have been no issues reported inshore.

Local fishermen and boaters remember Tampa Bay's last major Red Tide. In 2005-06, water- and tourism-related businesses lost millions as dead fish covered local beaches and shorelines.

"There a lot of misconceptions about Red tide," said Dr. Vince Lovko, manager of Mote Marine Laboratory's Phytoplankton Ecology program. "Perhaps the greatest one is that it is always red."

Lovko said the organism that causes Red Tide, Karenia brevis, sometimes turns the water a rusty red, or it might just be a dark patch on the surface.

Scientists from Mote, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are aboard a research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico monitoring the algae bloom that has expanded and shrunk in size several times in recent weeks.

Lovko said anglers always want to know what triggers a Red Tide, but he said there is no simple answer.

"We don't fully understand the role nutrient sources play but there tends to be some common misconceptions about the role human activity plays," he said. "We do know that they usually start offshore and that they have been occurring for a long time, even before the first settlers arrived here."

Lovko said microscopic algal species similar to the plantlike organism that causes Florida Red Tide can be found in all of the world's oceans and many freshwater lakes. At high enough levels, these organisms can turn the water brown, green and even purple.

While researchers have kept good scientific records of Red Tides in recent decades, diaries of the early Spanish explorers contain numerous accounts of fish kills in the Tampa Bay area.

Sometimes a Red Tide can last just a few weeks, then return a month later. Other times, such as 2005-06, the killer bloom can linger for more than a year. Our local variety, K. brevis, likes the offshore habitat, where the salinity is higher, and doesn't live long when it moves up into an estuary such as Tampa Bay.

The most recent report shows a high concentration of Red Tide about 5 to 10 miles off the Central Pinellas coast and moving slowly south. But as Lovko added, "It can move up and down the water column. One day you may see it … the next you don't."

Many Red Tides, including K. brevis, produce toxic chemicals that can affect the nervous system of fish and other organisms. Sometimes, when a Red Tide gets close to shore, wave action can break open the algae which releases the toxins into the air, causing respiratory problems for humans.

Officials say it is still safe to swim, but if you experience eye, nose or throat irritation, get out of the water. And if you see dead fish floating, find another place to swim.

Anglers can eat the fillets of any fish caught during a Red Tide, because the toxins usually accumulate in the fish's internal organs, not the meat. But don't eat anything if it does not look healthy.

The FWC operates a "Fish Kill" hotline. The state agency also has an excellent information page on Red Tide. To learn more, go to myfwc.com. Mote Marine Laboratory is another leader in Red Tide research. Go to mote.org/news/florida-red-tide.

Anglers wary about Red Tide 08/28/14 [Last modified: Thursday, August 28, 2014 10:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. SI ranks Quinton Flowers on top 100, above Deondre Francois

    Blogs

    Sports Illustrated's ongoing countdown of the top 100 players in college football includes some high praise for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers.

  2. Kentucky recruit, former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox among top prospects for 2018 NBA Draft

    Preps

    Less than 24 hours after the NBA Draft, analysts have already begun looking ahead to 2018.

    Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox finishes a layup during the McDonald's All-American game in March at the United Center in Chicago. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. Illinois is recruiting a 10-year-old. Where will Lovie Smith be by the time the kid can sign?

    Blogs

    Today in ridiculous recruiting news, Lovie Smith's Illinois football team offered a scholarship to a 10-year-old.

  4. Rays series preview: Who are the Orioles?

    Blogs

    After an off day Thursday, the Rays remain at Tropicana Field for a three-game series against the AL East rival Orioles. Here's the information you need to know about Baltimore before the action kicks off.

    Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman, left, has posted the highest ERA of his career this season, while catcher Welington Castillo, center, has slumped recently.
  5. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.