With the presence of the toxic algae that causes red tide being confirmed in Palm Beach County, the Treasure Coast and now Miami-Dade, many are questioning whether a swim in the ocean is a good idea.
Here are five important things everyone should know about red tide, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife:
▪ How did it get here? Red tide is most prevalent on the west coast. It is very rare that Karenia brevis cells, the algae that cause red tide, are found in the Atlantic because the blooms incubate at the bottom of the Florida Shelf off the state’s Gulf Coast. The red tide has ravaged the west coast, decimating the wildlife. With that said, it’s possible it can show up on the east coast. The current can carry the cells up the coast.
▪ Should you go in the water? If a beach is infected with red tide, people will be warned to stay out of the water. Palm Beach and Martin counties closed several beaches after people reported symptoms of burning eyes and respiratory problems. On Thursday morning, Miami-Dade shut down beaches north of Haulover. But know that humans do not contract red tide — they suffer symptoms from being exposed to it. People with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, are urged to stay away from affected beaches. People are urged to call Florida Poison Information Center at 800-222-1222 to report symptoms.
▪ How does red tide affect the marine life/appearance of the water? Depending on how much algae, the water may appear to be red or dark green. The toxic cells can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates, causing these animals to die. Seeing dead fish isn’t always a 100 percent sign that red tide exists, but it may be. The FWC urges people to report dead marine life to 800-636-0511.
▪ Is it safe to eat shellfish from water infected with red tide? Filter-feeders including oysters and clams that have been exposed to red tide can get people sick because the toxins accumulate in shellfish. According to the FWC, shellfish should be bought at a store or restaurant because it is monitored and tested.
▪ How long will we have to deal with this? It depends. Sometimes red tides last a week. Sometimes they last a year. It all depends on the current, sunlight, wind and nature in general.
For more information, visit www.myfwc.com.