Red Tide Information

Red Tide or Karenia Brevis

Red Tide or Karenia Brevis
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Red Tide or Karenia Brevis
Karenia Brevis, as seen under an Electron Microscope

The algae that exist in our waters are important to our marine environment and the majority of algae species are not harmful. Yet, under the right conditions, the one called Karenia Brevis can grow rapidly.  When the conditions are right, this algae can explode in number and this is called a "bloom".  These blooms can be so large that it can make the gulf waters appear red or brown, so it is referred to as RED TIDE.

 

When a huge bloom occurs, Red Tide can produce a sort of gas that is dispersed in the air.  This gas is called a "brevetoxin" and is responsible for killing fish and other marine organisms that come in contact with it.  Florida is not alone when it comes to Red Tide, because red tide blooms occur all over the world.  It seems like Florida's blooms are highlighted in the news more often than other areas that experience this phenomenon.  The other areas, around the world, that have experienced Red Tide are Scandinavia, Japan, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific.  According to Mote Marine Laboratory, the first scientific documentation of Red Tide was back in the fall of 1947, when residents of Venice, Florida witnessed thousands of dead fish and a reported that a "stinging gas" was in the air and history also shows that Floridians reported events like this as far back as the mid-1800s.  We now know that Red Tide blooms move like jellyfish...its movement is impacted by wind and tides.  This makes predicting the appearance and severity of red tide almost impossible.

 

Risks Associated With Exposure To Red Tide

Red Tide Safety and Frequently Asked Questions
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Red Tide Safety and Frequently Asked Questions

From what we can see, people who swim in Red Tide or breathe in the brevetoxins can experience eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.  It is believed that people who suffer from respiratory illnesses, like asthma or emphysema, can have more severe reactions.  In addition to killing fish, shellfish are also impacted due to the fact that brevetoxins can become concentrated in their tissues.  People who eat these shellfish may come down with a neurotoxic shellfish poisoning that causes severe gastrointestinal and neurologic symptoms, such as tingling fingers or toes.

Manatee County Marine Rescue is involved in a Red Tide Program with the Mote Marine Laboratory, located just 12 miles away, and our personnel are up to date with red tide water testing results and any blooms that may exist in the area.  Our lifeguard staff is well aware of the signs of red tide and will post signage and flags when this phenomenon occurs.  If you have any questions about red tide or other beach conditions, please ask your nearest lifeguard.
 

More Red Tide Information

Top 10 Red Tide Facts
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Top 10 Red Tide Facts

The Marine Rescue Division depends on two research institutes for information regarding our marine environment and they are the Florida Wildlife Research Institute (located in St. Petersburg, FL) and the Mote Marine Laboratories (located in Sarasota, FL).  

 

Their efforts, regarding the study of the marine environment, are crucial to the understanding, protection and preservation our waterways and other aquatic ecosystems.  For more information about Red Tide and about these agencies, please use the links provided below:

 

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

Address:
1600 Ken Thompson Parkway
Sarasota, FL 34236
PH: 941-388-4441

 

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

Address:
100 Eighth Avenue SE
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5095
PH: 727-896-8626