Viral post spreads false claims about red tide in SWFL

Published: July 21, 2021 5:56 PM EDT
Updated: July 21, 2021 6:31 PM EDT

A damaging post online is spreading misinformation and trying to deter beachgoers.

A public Facebook post says, “Don’t plan your vacation in Southwest Florida anytime soon … The water is dead and toxic from Cape Coral all the way up past Clearwater.”

Those claims are false, yet as of Wednesday, more than 170,000 people have shared the post on Facebook.

We were by the water in Cape Coral and spoke to people about the conditions they were experiencing.

“It’s a beautiful day, and I’m enjoying the beach,” John Johns said.

The water was also crystal clear off Captiva when we visited.

“The water’s beautiful, the weather’s beautiful; it’s a good day,” said Stephanie Upton, who was visiting from Kentucky.

Many people we spoke to saw the post on social media and knew it was false

“Actually, I was on Facebook this morning, and … I saw it, and I said, ‘What are they talking about?’” explained Linda Johns, who lives in Cape Coral. “Because we come here at least once a week, and we’ll go over to Fort Myers once a week, and we haven’t seen anything.”

Southwest Florida red tide map as of Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Credit: WINK News.

The latest red tide map Friday showed little to no red tide in the Gulf off the coast of Southwest Florida.

We took the concern to James Douglass, a marine biologist at Florida Gulf Coast University’s The Water School, and asked him about the accuracy of the viral post.

“It was accurate in that red tide is a big problem, but misleading if it implied that red tide was a big problem in Cape Coral and southward now,” Douglass said. “But we’re vulnerable to it because our waters are polluted with nutrients.”

While Douglass said it’s something we need to keep an eye on, it’s not stopping people from soaking up the summer sun on the sand.

We reached out to the woman who shared the post, but she has not responded to us.