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Red tide

You may have heard of this term before if you have gone to the beach, especially if you have been to the Gulf Coast. Red tide is defined by NOAA as, “harmful algal blooms, or HABs…” This occurs when, “plant-like organisms that live in the sea and freshwater grow out of control.” When the algae does grow at an increased rate, it is very harmful to sea life. Not only does the algae hurt sea life, but it can also have an effect on us as well.

Usually, red tide is seen on the Florida Gulf Coast and it is said that locations like Clearwater and Sanibel Island are most prone to it. Recently, red tide has been in the news because it has been affecting the beaches in these areas. As many college students and kids have started spring break, this has been an issue for them. Red tide can cause dead fish to wash up on shore and can also cause the water to turn a rusty red color. Red tide does not just occur on Florida’s Gulf coast, but also near Texas. Sometimes it can occur on the east coast, but is more common near the Gulf.

Here is what red tide can look like on the shore:

Red tide, Puget Sound, Alki Beach, Seattle, Washington, July 2012

Red tide can have several effects on people. Sometimes people start coughing and not feeling well after they get out of the water. Recently, many people have said that they are not able to go to the beaches in parts of Florida’s west coast because of this issue.

This is not a new occurrence. Red tide occurs nearly every year and just depends on certain qualities of the water. An update of the red tide conditions can be found here:

Here is an example of a forecast map from March 17th, 2023:

Can red tide be predicted?

Red tide cannot necessarily be “forecasted.” Scientists continue to take samples from the water and do research on why this happens in certain areas. There are weekly status updates of the red tide posted to the website above to keep the public updated.

What precautions should you take?

Always check the beach conditions before you visit to see if red tide is occurring at the beach you are going to. If you have an elevated risk of asthma or have other related lung problems, it is recommended that you stay cautious of attending the beach. It is usually safe to swim in the water with red tide, but if you have health risks it is probably best to stay out of the water just to be safe. Sometimes irritation of the eyes and skin can occur after getting out of the water.

Overall, just research before going to the beach! Be cautious of the red tide conditions at all times.

-Written by Rachel Stinger


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