Apr 19, 2021 - News

Red Tide discovered on Sarasota beaches

Dead fish washed up on a beach

Dead fish washed ashore on Captiva Island due to red tide in January. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Warning signs have been posted along Sarasota beaches from North Jetty to Longboat Key after monitors found elevated levels of toxic algae known as Red Tide.

  • There have been "reports of respiratory irritation" from beachgoers, per the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota.
  • A fish kill was reported in the area, per the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
  • Over the past week, Karenia brevis, a naturally occurring toxic algae known as Red Tide, was detected in 54 samples in Southwest Florida, per FWC.

Why it matters: Officials are studying the water in the southern part of Tampa Bay due to the 215 million gallons of polluted water discharged weeks ago into the bay from the old Piney Point phosphate plant holding ponds.

Yes, but: Experts don't believe current conditions were prompted by the Piney Point discharge, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

  • Rather, the bloom appears to have emerged from Charlotte and Lee County starting in December, with winds from the south pushing the bloom northward to Sarasota County.

What's next: USF researchers are using a computer model that forecasts the path of the wastewater discharged into Tampa Bay from Piney Point as they study how the polluted water is affecting marine ecosystems.

  • If that water meets Red Tide, it could lead to a worse algae bloom.

Flashback: The last major Red Tide outbreak lasted from October 2017 to February 2019, killing countless sea creatures — as well as dolphins, sea turtles and manatees.

Reading files: The Tampa Bay Times, in a deep dive Sunday, reports that as early as 2008, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was predicting disaster at Piney Point.


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