Red tide largely spares Manatee County, but plagues beaches to the south
MANATEE COUNTY – The shores of Manatee County have lately been relatively free of the effects of red tide. But as beachgoers venture farther south along the Gulf of Mexico, it's a different story.
On Monday afternoon, beaches from Lido Key to Venice North Jetty reported some dead fish, some respiratory irritation or a little bit of both. This is according to Mote Marine Laboratory's Sarasota Operations Coastal Oceans Observation Lab, or SO COOL for short, which gathers the conditions of 29 beaches from Caladesi Island to Marco Island.
The Karenia brevis organism is naturally occurring but when it accumulates in toxic amounts, it becomes red tide. It's obvious to tell when red tide is on a beach when itchy, watery eyes or scratchy throats become unbearable, or if dead fish litter the shore.
Vince Lovko, phytoplankton ecology scientist with Mote Marine, said this particular bloom is "unusual, not remarkable." By this, he means that although red tide is typically known to appear between late summer and early fall, this particular instance in Manatee and Sarasota waters isn't that strange. The first day of summer is Thursday.
"Certainly we are aware that red tide ... can happen any time of the year," Lovko said.
The trouble is knowing enough about K. brevis to predict when it's going to happen, or to stop it from happening altogether. He compared it to predicting the weather.
"We don't try to change the weather, but we do try to get better at predicting it," he said.
He suspects that the recent harmful algal bloom is actually part of a bloom that has persisted since November 2017.