Published: Feb 27, 2013 10:56 PM EST
Updated: Feb 28, 2013 12:13 AM EST

SANIBEL,FL--If you have been to the beach lately, you've probably noticed a strong smell or dead fish along the beach. On and off for the past six months, Southwest Florida coastlines have seen medium to high levels of red tide.

Tonight a local group is stepping up by educating people about red tide and discussing ways to reduce the toxic blooms.

The group is called S.T.A.R.T. "Solutions to Avoid Red Tide and more than a hundred people gathered tonight Sanibel to learn about why red tide is plaguing our area so much lately.

If you ask tourist Holly Love what her first experience was like on the beach this year, you will not get a very pleasant response.

"We started coughing immediately," said Love.

"We saw a woman walking on the beach with a surgical mask on and I asked her what that was for and she said red tide," said Love.

The latest red tide bloom has been plaguing our area for the past 6 months with harmful odors and lots of dead fish.

"You couldn't even walk without stepping on them," said tourist Ray Piloto.

"It's sort of a perfect storm, if you will, of the physical properties of the ocean sort of pushing the organisms together, the right nutrients so that it can grow," said Mote Marine Laboratory researcher Barbara Kirkpatrick.

The panel not only discussed what red tide is, but what it feeds off of once it reaches shore.

"The fertilizer that we put on our lawns, urban runoff, agricultural runoff," said researcher Alina Corcoran.

Phyllis Faust lives on Sanibel and says doing the things she once loved is rare.

"It is very uncomfortable. We cant enjoy the beach like we used to I used to love to shell," said Faust.

Researchers say blooms lasting longer than 2 to 3 months isn't all that uncommon. Back in 2005 we had a red tide bloom that lasted the entire year. In the short term, researchers say a big weather system could get rid of this current bloom.

"Not like a hurricane or anything like that but the cold fronts we have had this winter have been  fairly mild," said Kirkpatrick.

"Think about what our daily actions are and what we are putting out there in to the environment," said Corcoran.

To check red tide levels and statistics Click Here.

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