Environment

Red tide continues to plague Florida beaches — with no signs of stopping

A look at red tide on Manatee County beaches Sept. 15, 2018

Red tide has again washed up several dead fish onto Anna Maria Island beaches in Manatee County on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.
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Red tide has again washed up several dead fish onto Anna Maria Island beaches in Manatee County on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

Signs of the persistent red tide bloom reappeared on Anna Maria Island this weekend after seeming to recede.

The red tide organism, Karenia brevis, has besieged local beaches for more than a month with its odor, fish carcasses and dark water. The algae bloom has also been thought by scientists to be behind the deaths of turtles, dolphins, sharks and manatees in Florida’s waters.

Since early August, Manatee County crews have removed 289 tons of fish, according to Nick Azzara, information outreach manager for Manatee County.

This weekend, dead fish again washed up on Anna Maria Island shores.

In a Monday update to its beach conditions report, Mote Marine Laboratory reported heavy amounts of dead fish and intense respiratory irritation on Coquina Beach, with dark water, thick red drift and no crowds.

On Manatee Public Beach, Mote officials reported similar water and red drift conditions with some dead fish and moderate respiratory irritation for the few beachgoers who braved the conditions.

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Signs of red tide, such as dead fish, were evident Saturday morning on Anna Maria Island beaches. Marc Masferrer mmasferrer@bradenton.com

Manatee County officials reported light amounts of fish on Coquina and Cortez beaches. However, north of Cortez Beach up to Bean Point, there were moderate to heavy amounts of fish.

Bayfront Park and Coquina Bayside had light seaweed, and Coquina Bayside, Coquina North and South boat ramps also saw some light amounts of fish Monday.

The water, county officials noted, is brown, and the air quality was reported to cause coughing and other respiratory irritation.

From Bradenton Beach, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce posted to its Facebook page Monday that there was water discoloration along the island.

Chamber president Terri Kinder said businesses on the island are still being affected by red tide.

“From a business perspective, it’s important to know that we’re open,” Kinder said of island businesses. “Some businesses take a vacation in September, but for the most part we’re fully operational.”

The chamber’s website features a list of Service Industry Relief Festivities, which are held at different area restaurants and offer discounts for those who attend. It’s part of an effort to bring customers out to restaurants despite red tide.

In a weekly update Friday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported there was a lower percentage — between 5 and 25 percent — of samples with medium or high levels of red tide in Manatee County waters.

However, the report also noted Manatee County saw increased concentrations of the algae compared to the previous week.

Meanwhile, percentages increased for neighboring Sarasota and Pinellas counties.

The bloom now stretches along about 130 miles of Florida’s Gulf coast, and for the first time, a patch of the bloom was reported in Northwest Florida. The report noted “very low concentrations” in Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Pasco and Walton counties, background to medium concentrations near Bay County, and background concentrations in Gulf and Franklin counties.

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In 13 different samples taken this week, the Karenia brevis algae strain was found in background to high traces in Manatee County, but overall, concentrations are between 5 and 25 percent lower than last week, experts said. FWC

Tropical Storm Gordon may have helped push red tide conditions away from Manatee County beaches after Labor Day, researchers say, but a shift in wind direction can bring it all back onto local shores soon.

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