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Researchers find higher red tide concentrations off Sanibel coast, no inland impacts

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation says it has found higher concentrations of red tide off the coast.

From the shore on Lighthouse Beach, you can’t see or smell the signs of red tide, and there are no dead fish lining the sand.

However, that doesn’t mean red tide is not growing in the water.

“We found medium to high concentrations of the dinoflagellates that cause red tide,” said Eric Milbrandt, the SCCF marine lab director. “The highest concentration was about five miles south of the lighthouse.”

Researchers with the foundation took us into the lab where they tested water samples they recently gathered. They say conditions from Tropical Storm Eta, extra nutrients from Lake Okeechobee releases and runoff from other places are contributing to the red tide patches, but the problem areas are still too far out for us to feel the impacts onshore.

“If those blooms and those higher concentrations were to move closer to the beach, we might see more effects,” Milbrandt said.

People who live and fish near the shore say they know how bad the effects of red tide can be at its worst.

“Kinda hard to breathe,” Rhett Skinner siad. “I would say just smelly, smells like dead fish. There was dead fish everywhere, obviously. It’s just not a good sight to see.”

“It would be terrible, terrible for the fishing out here,” Dylan Heitmann said. “We all love going to the pier. That’s what we all love to do, so it would suck for us.”

Even though the red tide patches are not impacting people currently, researchers say they are seeing some of the early impacts on wildlife in the area, which is a sign the bloom is getting closer to the beach.

SCCF researchers say they are keeping a close eye on the water, with the hopes that red tide does not continue to grow.

“We are definitely watching out and concerned, Milbrandt said. “The next few cold fronts will probably drive that temperature down and be less likely for the bloom to persist.”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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