Log in Subscribe

Red Tide Bloom Lurks Off Coast


BRADENTON --  The Florida Wildlife Commission says the 90-mile long, 60-mile wide karenia brevis (Red Tide) bloom has killed tens of thousands of fish -- along with birds and marine animals -- and is moving slowly towards the Tampa Bay area at approximately two miles an hour.

The depth of the bloom ranges from 60 to 80 feet and is expected to move ashore in the next two weeks. It is the largest outbreak of red tide bloom on the west coast of Florida in almost a decade. It now sits 40 miles off shore and is slowly moving in a south/southeast direction.

Snapper, grouper, flounder, hogfish, bull shark and crab are all victims of this year's outbreak, as well as sea turtles and sea snakes. Red tide is known to penetrate oysters and clams, causing neurotoxic poisoning. While most fish cannot survive in strong blooms, jellyfish actually thrive under the conditions they bring. Not surprisingly, the species has seen increases in both size and population as blooms have become more common.

A smaller red tide killed a record high number of the already endangered Manatees in 2013. When the k. brevis bloom becomes airborne it can cause serious illness for those with asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases. People that suffer from those conditions are advised to stay indoors and distant from the shore. 

A red tide outbreak can cripple a fishing season, leaving many without work, and tourism also suffers a heavy toll. 

A Sierra Club report links fertilizers to K. Brevis blooms. "Residential fertilizer use in the state of Florida increased by 153,533.95 tons or 45% from 2003 to 2006 alone." The report suggest, nitrogen urea fertilizers are at the root of the problem; holding accountable the overuse of Florida lawn care products, and the abundant use of nutrients in Florida agriculture.

The Sierra Club's and other studies have prompted many counties on the west coast of Florida to adopt a fertilizer ban. In Pinellas and Manatee Counties that ban took effect on June 1 and will stay in effect until September 30, preventing the use of nitrogen fertilizers through the summer months.

The history of red tide dates back over a hundred years, but for decades the severity and size of the blooms have increased.

There is a possibility the bloom will make it to the central western shore of Florida sooner then reported if the westerly winds continue to blow across the gulf through the week.



No comments on this item

Only paid subscribers can comment
Please log in to comment by clicking here.