The effects of Red Tide continue to be felt across Tampa Bay, and especially in the bay itself. But a little research and caution could make sure it doesn’t impact your Fourth of July plans.
The latest report Friday from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows Red Tide outbreaks are coalescing around two areas:
Tampa Bay itself, which has left scores of dead fish along the St. Petersburg and Tampa waterfronts, and the southwest coast of Pasco County, where several new blooms have been detected surrounding Anclote Key island.
“It’s definitely moved into the bay,” said commission spokesperson Carlisle Jones. “It is unusual but not rare for all of it to go into the bay.”
Pinellas County officials say the Red Tide situation along the beaches has improved, though several low-level algal blooms were found from Park Boulevard N south to Pass-A-Grille Beach.
Though no health warnings were issued by Pinellas or Hillsborough officials on Friday, remember that Red Tide can produce respiratory distress, such as eye, nose and throat irritation. Those with breathing issues such as asthma may experience more severe symptoms. The best cure is to leave.
Here are the areas to watch out for this weekend:
First, the St. Petersburg side of the bay: From the Gandy Bridge south of Coquina Key, water tests indicate medium and low concentrations of the microorganism Karenia brevis, which causes the toxic algal blooms, all along the city’s coastline.
From north to south: A medium concentration was found off Flora Wylie Park near Coffee Pot Bayou; then a low concentration off North Shore Park; a medium level detected in Bayboro Harbor; and a low level in Big Bayou.
Those concentrations may explain the thousands of dead fish that have appeared along the waterfront parks in recent days. A St. Petersburg city spokesperson said the cleanup continues and that no Fourth of July events have been canceled as a result.
The south Hillsborough side of the bay is filled with blooms: They start at Sunken Island off the Gibsonton coast and move south; medium concentrations were found off Apollo Beach Preserve and Pine Key; a high concentration off Sand Key near Ruskin; and medium and low concentrations moving south toward the Hillsborough-Manatee county line.
Look northward to the Pasco-Pinellas border and several high and medium concentrations were found surrounding Anclote Key and moving north up the Pasco coast. Medium concentrations were found along the coast at Anclote River Park, Gulf Anclote Park and Key Vista Nature Park.
During a Zoom webinar this week, health experts warned Floridians to stay away from water affected by Red Tide. The toxins could cause skin irritation, respiratory irritation, burning eyes or worse if someone were to swim near blooms.
Lynn Ringenberg, the co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida, recommends those in Red Tide zones avoid getting the water in their eyes, nose, ears, mucous membranes, etc. She also suggests taking a good, thorough shower afterward.
But most of all, she said the public should heed any warning signs.
“I wouldn’t be getting into the water with my children or anybody with dead fish floating around,” said Ringenberg during the Zoom meeting.
Red Tide can also be dangerous to pets, so keep them away from those areas and dead marine life. If they’re exposed, wash them right away.
Red Tide resources
Help the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local officials track and clean up fish kills by reporting them via the commission’s app, FWC Reporter, available for iOS devices and Android devices.
Fish kills can also be reported by calling the commission’s toll-free hotline: 800-636-0511.
Florida Poison Control Centers has a toll-free 24/7 hotline to report illnesses, including from exposure to Red Tide: 1-800-222-1222
There are several online resources that can help residents stay informed and share information about Red Tide:
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the county’s tourism wing, runs an online beach dashboard at www.beachesupdate.com.
The agency asks business owners to email reports of Red Tide issues to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pinellas County shares information with the Red Tide Respiratory Forecast tool that allows beachgoers to check for warnings.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a website that tracks where Red Tide is detected and how strong the concentrations.
How to stay safe near the water
- Beachgoers should avoid swimming around dead fish.
- Those with chronic respiratory problems should be particularly careful and “consider staying away” from places with a Red Tide bloom.
- People should not harvest or eat mollusks or distressed and dead fish from the area. Fillets of healthy fish should be rinsed with clean water, and the guts thrown out.
- Pet owners should keep their animals away from the water and from dead fish.
- Residents living near the beach should close their windows and run air conditioners with proper filters.
- Visitors to the beach can wear paper masks, especially if the wind is blowing in.
Source: Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County