Red Tide Reported at Multiple Locations in Lee County | News, sports, jobs



The Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has documented a red tide resurgence in the waters off Fort Myers Beach and Lee County after testing this month.

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County has issued a health alert for the presence of three red tide blooms in Lee County. Alarm levels, also considered “average levels” of red tide, were found at Lynn Hall Memorial Park on Fort Myers Beach, New Pass at Lovers Key State Park on Fort Myers Beach on Nov. 16, and at Lighthouse Beach Park on Sanibel on Nov. 17. An alert level of red tide had been found in Bonita Beach Park.

Red tide was observed in 13 different samples in Lee County over the past week. The highest concentrations were off the coast of eastern Sanibel and northern Captiva.

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County is warning the public to exercise caution in and around Lee County’s coastal waters at this time and to stay away from the water. City of Fort Myers Beach officials are also urging residents not to enter the water due to pollution from Hurricane Ian and dangerous objects in the water. Since Hurricane Ian, environmental observers have been expecting a resurgence of the red tide.

Over the past week, reports of fish kills suspected of being related to red tide have been received in Southwest Florida from Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties.

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County is warning residents and visitors to take the following precautions:

• Do not swim in water with dead fish.

• People with chronic respiratory problems should be especially careful to stay away from this location as red tides can affect your breathing.

• Do not harvest or eat molluscs or distressed or dead fish at this location. If caught alive and healthy, fin whales are safe to eat as long as they are filleted and the entrails discarded. Rinse the fillets with tap water or bottled water.

• Wash your skin and clothing with soap and fresh water if you have recently been in contact with red water.

• Keep pets and livestock away from and out of water.

• Residents living in beach areas are advised to close the windows and turn on the air conditioner and ensure that the air conditioner filter is maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

• If residents are outdoors near an affected site, they may choose to wear masks, especially when land winds are blowing.

Is red tide harmful?

Red tide, known scientifically as K. brevis, produces potent neurotoxins (brevetoxins) that can be harmful to the health of both wildlife and humans. Wind and wave action can break open K. brevis cells and release toxins into the air.

People in coastal areas may experience varying degrees of eye, nose, and throat irritation during a red tide bloom. Some individuals with chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma or chronic lung disease may experience more severe symptoms. Red tide toxins can also affect the central nervous system of fish and other marine life, leading to fish kills and increased strandings or deaths in the wild. Eating contaminated seafood can cause neurotoxic shellfish poisoning in humans. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting; tingling in the mouth, lips and tongue; and slurred speech and dizziness.

To report fish kills, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-800-636-0511 or at https://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/health/fish-kills-hotline/.

“Fish death and respiratory irritation are almost certain at these high levels,” said Dr. Eric Milbrandt, director of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Lab. “We also found areas at the high end of the medium near South Seas Resort,” Milbrandt said.

Health officials are issuing Red Tide ALERT for Lee County

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County has issued a health alert for the presence of an additional red tide bloom. The red tidal organism, Karenia brevis, has been observed in very low to high concentrations in Lee County. An alert level of Red Tide has been found at Alison Hagerup Beach (Captiva). This is in response to water samples taken on November 17.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

• Look for information boards on most beaches.

• Stay away from water and do not swim in water with dead fish.

• People with chronic respiratory problems should be especially careful to stay away from this location as red tides can affect your breathing.

• Do not harvest or eat mollusks, or distressed or dead fish from this location. If caught alive and healthy, fin whales are safe to eat as long as they are filleted and the entrails discarded. Rinse the fillets with tap water or bottled water.

• Wash your skin and clothing with soap and fresh water if you have recently been in contact with red water.

• Keep pets and livestock away from water, foam and dead sea creatures. If your pet swims in red tide water, wash it as soon as possible.

• Residents living in beach areas are advised to close the windows and turn on the air conditioner and ensure that the air conditioner filter is maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

• If residents are outdoors near an affected site, they may choose to wear masks, especially when land winds are blowing.

What is Red Tide?

Red tide is a type of harmful algal bloom caused by high concentrations of the toxic dinoflagellate Karenia brevis (K. brevis), a type of microscopic algae found in the Gulf of Mexico. Red tide usually forms naturally offshore, usually in late summer or early fall, and is carried to coastal waters by wind and currents. Once on land, these opportunistic organisms can use near-coastal food sources to boost their growth. Flowering usually lasts into winter or spring, but can last more than a year in some cases.

Is it harmful?

K. brevis produces potent neurotoxins (brevetoxins) that can be harmful to both wildlife and human health. Wind and wave action can break open K. brevis cells and release toxins into the air. Therefore, you should monitor conditions and be careful when visiting affected water bodies. People in coastal areas may experience varying degrees of eye, nose, and throat irritation during a red tide bloom. Some individuals with chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma or chronic lung disease may experience more severe symptoms. Red tide toxins can also affect the central nervous system of fish and other marine life, leading to fish kills and increased strandings or deaths in the wild. Eating contaminated seafood can cause neurotoxic shellfish poisoning in humans. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting; tingling in the mouth, lips and tongue; and slurred speech and dizziness.

Find current information on Florida’s water quality status and public health alerts for harmful algal blooms and beach conditions by visiting ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov and floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins. Protecting Florida Together is the state’s collective effort to provide statewide water quality information to prioritize environmental transparency and commitment to action. Visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for local shellfish harvesting status.

Where can I report issues related to Red Tide?

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission collects and analyzes red tide samples and the results are updated several times a day (MyFWC.com/redtidemap/); status updates are issued twice a week during flowering (Red Tide Current Status). Call the toll-free hotline at 866-300-9399 to hear a recording on red tide conditions statewide.

To report fish kills, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute through the FWC Reporter app, call 1-800-636-0511, or report online at https://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/ health/fish-kills-helpline/.

Report symptoms of exposure to a harmful algal bloom or other poison in the water to the Florida Poison Information Center. Call 1-800-222-1222 to speak to a poison specialist immediately.

Contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has become ill after consuming or coming into contact with red tide-affected water or contaminated marine life.

If you have other health questions or concerns about red tide blooms, call the Florida Department of Health in Lee County at 239-690-2100.


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