Along the coast of Southwest Florida, red tide is lingering. Through January 6, 2023, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission detected low to high concentrations in 59 samples collected from Pinellas to Charlotte County, as detailed in the image above.
Conditions have varied since October when the blooms first appeared, due to ever-changing wind and currents that move blooms inshore and offshore, as well as up and down the coast. Marine animals and residents alike are feeling the repercussions, as fish kills and respiratory irritation reported by beachgoers are linked to the persistent blooms.
In Sarasota Bay, researchers have discovered that bottlenose dolphins tracked by marine scientists will “cough” and “sneeze” when they swim through strong red tide blooms, much like humans with a bad cold do. The research, reported by WGCU, indicates red tide can cause respiratory irritation in the animals, serving as a strong sentinel suggestion that as these creatures suffer, so does the larger ecosystem — which includes us.
As we progress through the dry season, when the Everglades is in need of additional hydration, it remains important for water managers to avoid sending too much polluted Lake Okeechobee water to Southwest Florida. Polluted lake discharges exacerbate red tide blooms.
If you missed the images collected by Friends of the Everglades from a recent visit to Sanibel Island detailing the wreckage of yet another red-tide fish kill, you can view them here.