Published: Oct 04, 2011 10:37 PM EDT
Updated: Oct 04, 2011 11:29 PM EDT

GULF OF MEXICO, Fla.- Local biologists are on the hunt for red tide.  WINK News went out on the water Tuesday as a local biologist sampled for the algae that has been spotted off shore of Lee County.  

Red tide can be known to wreak havoc in southwest Florida but we haven't seen it for a few years.  Now with a large bloom just off the shores of Sanibel Island, will it bring with it dead fish and breathing problems or a chance for biologists to study and understand why it happens?

Red tide can always be found off the coast of southwest Florida but right now there is a bloom that is a little bit larger that has peaked the interest of biologists.  Its why they're heading off shore to collect samples.  Figure out how big this bloom is and where exactly it is.

20 miles off Sanibel Island, red tide is present but you need a microscope to see it.  Bruce Neill with Sanibel Sea School is working to understand why the algae is growing at a fast pace.

"This is probably 25 square miles, its a very large bloom.  Part of it is very concentrated and it becomes diffuse along the edges," said Neill.

The large bloom is in it's early stages and is being tracked by satellite.  That helps marine biologists like Neill, get a handle on where it goes and how large it gets.

Southwest Florida is considered the epicenter for red tide blooms.  Its why biologists need to travel many miles off shore to understand exactly why its here by doing things like collecting samples.

One sample at a time, Neill is bottling up Gulf waters and will send it to the Florida Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.  It will be analyzed there to understand the creatures inside the bloom.

"We're trying to better understand the community dynamics of karina brevis so we can get better at tracking it and predicting it in the future," said Neill.

This particular bloom is about 20 miles off shore and its expected to continue to move southward, possibly moving past Collier county and not posing a threat to anyone.  

To track red tide, visit