1. News
  2. /
  3. Environment

Red Tide back but not as bad -- so far

The bloom started off Collier County in September. It’s slowly moving north
Workers clean up thousands of small fish that washed onto North Redington Beach last year as a result of the worst Red Tide bloom in a decade.  A new Red Tide bloom began in September off Collier County and appears to be creeping northward. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TIMES]
Workers clean up thousands of small fish that washed onto North Redington Beach last year as a result of the worst Red Tide bloom in a decade. A new Red Tide bloom began in September off Collier County and appears to be creeping northward. [SCOTT KEELER | TIMES]
Published Oct. 30, 2019

A Red Tide algae bloom that began off Collier County’s beaches in late September has been inching its way up the coast during October, killing fish and choking beachgoers. On Wednesday, state scientists said the algae was detected in “very low concentrations” off of Pinellas County.

The most recent tests show that the higher concentrations that constitute a bloom have reached an area near Venice, south of Sarasota.

“Bloom concentrations ... were observed in five samples from Sarasota County, two samples from Charlotte County, seven samples from and offshore of Lee County and nine samples from and offshore of Collier County,” the latest Red Tide report from the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.

Reports of fish kills have come in from Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties, and people have reported breathing problems from the beaches in Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties.

There’s no way to predict if or when the latest Red Tide bloom might show up off of Pinellas County’s beaches, the state’s top Red Tide expert said Wednesday.

“We don’t have good tools for that yet,” said Katie Hubbard of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

So far, officials say the bloom has not been as bad as the 16-month outbreak that started in November 2017 and lasted all through 2018 before finally ending early this year.

“Last year it hung around for month after month, and even killed a 27-foot whale shark,” said James Evans, the director of natural resources for the island city of Sanibel, near Fort Myers. “This is more of an average Red Tide.”

A Red Tide air quality prediction tool, tested in Pinellas last year, has been revived for Sanibel residents. The tool is designed to help residents with respiratory illnesses such as asthma assess what day and time would be safe to visit three local beaches.

Run by the Pinellas-based Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, the 24-hour Red Tide Respiratory Forecasts are updated every three hours.

RELATED: Answering your questions about Red Tide in Pinellas County.

Red Tide algae exist in the Gulf of Mexico all year long, but periodically their population explodes, staining the water a rusty red — hence the name. No one knows what causes a Red Tide bloom to begin 10 to 40 miles offshore. But they have been recorded as far back as when the Spanish conquistadors explored the state.

Wind and water currents can push the bloom around. When such blooms move close to land, scientists say, their duration and intensity can be fueled by pollution such as fertilizer, leaking sewer lines and faulty septic tanks.

The prior Red Tide bloom, considered the worst in the past decade, began off Collier County and a year later, in October 2018, it was touching all three Florida coasts: gulf, Panhandle and Atlantic. The toxins from the bloom also took a heavy toll on manatees, dolphins, sea turtles and seabirds.

RELATED: Red Tide bloom touches three coasts.

“Last year we scooped up 850,000 pounds of dead fish, and the cancellation rate at our hotels was 78 percent between July and October” Evans said.

So far, the ongoing bloom has been far less deadly, he said, noting that the island’s fishkill reports have involved about 70 fish, including 30 eels. And he said he has not heard of any hotel or motel guests cancelling reservations.

Oceanographers at the University of South Florida analyze the currents to try to predict where the bloom will go next. Right now the prediction is that the bloom will stay somewhat stationary — but that prediction is only good for the next three days.


To view the current Fish and Wildlife Research Institute report on Red Tide, click here:

To report a fishkill, call 1-800-636-0511.


  1. Flooding from an October king tide in Miami Shores fills streets, sidewalks and driveways at its peak. [Miami Herald]
    And it could lose up to 35 percent of its value by 2050, according to a new report.
  2. Two babirusa pigs are shown at Lowry Park Zoo in this photo from 1995. A Tampa Bay couple is accused of distributing remnants from exotic animal species, including a babirusa skill. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Novita Indah and Larry Malugin sold more than 3,000 items made from the animals over a period of more than five years, federal officials said.
  3. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates businessman Tom Steyer, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. listen, Tuesday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    The candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach the issue.
  4. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dumps new sand from Central Florida along the Miami Beach shoreline near 65th Collins Avenue on Monday. [MATIAS J. OCNER  |  Miami Herald]
    The idea is to build a buffer between the condos and the rising seas.
  5. Draped against the St. Petersburg skyline on Tuesday evening on January 14, 2020, the Bella Vita is visible as it docks in Port St. Pete. The yacht is nearly 250 feet long and costs about $650,000 to charter for a week in the winter, according to broker Moran Yacht and Ship. It can accommodate 12 passengers between its six staterooms and six decks, and a staff of 22. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
    Meet the Bella Vita, a yacht almost too luxurious to believe.
  6. A 350-pound Warsaw grouper was caught off the southwest coast of Florida late last month, according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. [Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission]
    Biologists from the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s Age & Growth Lab estimate the age of the fish at 50 years old.
  7. A family rides their motorcycle through clouds of ash as they evacuate to safer grounds as Taal volcano in Tagaytay, Cavite province, southern Philippines on Monday. Red-hot lava is gushing from the volcano after a sudden eruption of ash and steam that forced residents to flee and shut down Manila’s airport, offices and schools. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila) [AARON FAVILA  |  AP]
    Clouds of ash from forced the shutdown of the Philippines’ main airport, with more than 500 flights canceled.
  8. Store owners and family help remove supplies from a hardware store that partially collapsed after an earthquake struck Guanica, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday. [CARLOS GIUSTI  |  AP]
    Money is being accepted through a Wesley Chapel restaurant and a GoFundMe page by Somos Puerto Rico Tampa and the Course of Action Foundation.
  9. In this Thursday, photo, John Mash, right, a fire operations supervisor for the Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario, Canada, works in the situation room at the Rural Fire Service office in Moruya, Australia. The U.S., Canada and New Zealand have sent hundreds of firefighters to Australia to help local crews battle its deadly wildfires. The firefighters have come as part of a reciprocal deal which has previously seen Australians posted in North America. Many of the firefighters have specialized skills such as managing air operations or logistics. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft) [RICK RYCROFT  |  AP]
    More than 250 firefighters from the U.S. and nearly 100 from Canada have arrived or will soon help to battle the fires that have killed at least 26 people.
  10. The U.S. Mint revealed its latest design of its America the Beautiful Quarter program featuring the Samoan fruit bat in honor of the National Park of American Samoa. [U.S. Mint] [U.S. Mint]
    The U.S. Mint has revealed the newest designs for its annual America the Beautiful Quarters program, and you’ll see bats on the back of the coin as early as February 3.