Gulf of Mexico
Two locations in Florida were found to have low levels of the phytoplankton that causes red tide for measurements taken from May 2-9, 2019. (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

First signs of algae that cause red tide found off Florida’s Gulf Coast

Red tide isn’t likely to ruin anyone’s weekend, but state measurements taken in the last week have found small concentrations of the algae that cause it off Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The measurements taken by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission between May 2-9 found the presence of the microscopic red-tide causing phytoplankton, Karenia brevis, in low concentrations in waters in both Sarasota and Charlotte counties.

At that level, the state says possible respiratory irritation could be present, and will also shut down any shellfish harvesting if levels are on the higher end. The latest results also found background concentrations in Lee County, but the state says no effects can be expected.

FWC biologists take measurements at hundreds of spots all around the coast every week. No sign of the bacteria was found outside of Southwest Florida. The next report from the state comes Friday.

Red tide took its toll on the state in 2018, with what the state calls a naturally occurring algae bloom that can starve coastal waters of oxygen resulting in massive fish kills and pungent air that is a detriment to the state’s tourism industry. The Gulf Coast dealt with it for most of 2018, and often has outbreaks year to year. More rare, though, was its presence last year on the East Coast, with blooms making their way up through Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and farther up into Brevard County in October and November.

 Florida red tide
Florida red tide

In this Monday Aug. 6, 2018 photo in Bradenton Beach, Fla. From Naples in Southwest Florida, about 135 miles north, beach communities along the Gulf coast have been plagued with red tide. Normally crystal clear water is murky, and the smell of dead fish permeates the air (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) (Chris OMeara / AP)

The state spent millions in 2018 on beach cleanups as well as money into research on how to battle red tide.

The state posts its red tide monitor results at myfwc.com/research/redtide/statewide/with a detailed map of Karenia brevis measurements as well as access to tracking models to predict future movement.

The two locations on the latest report with minimal levels (1,000-10,000 cells per liter) were in the waters between Longboat Key and Bradenton Beach in Sarasota County and the intracoastal waters of Lemon Bay south of Englewood in Charlotte County. Background concentrations of less than 1,000 cells per liter were also found in Lee County.

See Orlando Sentinel article . . .