Red tide still plaguing Southwest Florida shores

Dozens of vultures gathered on Bunche Beach on Tuesday feasting on dead fish that washed up on shore thanks to red tide.

But further up the beach, Jerry Lightner, of Pennsylvania, said everything’s been good.

Before his beach trip, he said, he read about red tide and was concerned.

“Read about what it does to your respiratory system,” Lightner said. “We were a little nervous about it, to come down and rent a place for a while and have to deal with red tide. It was a little scary for us.”

A red tide bloom can irritate the eyes and cause people to cough. It’s hard to predict when a red tide bloom will begin and when it will finally go away. A red tide bloom that began in 2017 didn’t go away until 2019. Lots of factors come into play when it comes to breaking up a red tide bloom.

“Some of the notable ways we define severity is how long the red tide bloom lasts and we don’t know when this one is going to end,” said Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani.

As long as nutrients are feeding the bloom, it is here to stay.

“Red tide has to run out of nutrients or another algae, another phytoplankton starts growing faster and out-competing red tide, or you might have a pathogen, maybe a bacteria or a virus that knocks out red tide,” said Dr. Mike Parsons, a professor at The Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University and director of the Vester Field Station.

Nutrients from human activities can also play a role.

“Right now, we have a little bit of rain, so do we have nutrient inputs? Will Lake Okeechobee nutrients help to sustain it?” Parsons asked.

Cassani said it could go on for months or it could be gone in a week or two.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” he said.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Melissa Montoya
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