Mar 13, 2023 - News

Red tide threatens spring break on Tampa Bay's southern shores

Red tide on the beach

A large red tide bloom has worsened in waters around Anna Maria Island and Lower Tampa Bay as it drifts northward. Photo: Tiffany Tompkins/Bradenton Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Red tide is roaring to life on the southern shores of Tampa Bay, and threatens to ruin spring break for many at the busiest time of year for local tourism-oriented businesses.

Driving the news: Samples taken last week showed a strong presence of red tide around Anna Maria Island and Manatee County beaches.

  • Manatee County has cleaned up around 3.5 tons of dead fish in the past two weeks, per the Bradenton Herald.
  • Reports of respiratory irritation and dead fish have come from as far north as the Dunedin Causeway in Pinellas County, and south to Monroe County, as the enormous bloom lingering off the Southwest Florida coast grows bigger and its toxic fumes intensify.

Context: Red tide is a naturally occurring organism in the Gulf of Mexico that sometimes blooms to toxic levels.

  • A bloom developed near Fort Myers last fall and hasn't subsided.

Between the lines: Research shows that nutrients from agriculture, lawns and septic tanks fuel red tide blooms close to shore.

The latest: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found Karenia brevis, the organism that causes red tide, in 157 water samples along Florida's west coast, per its most recent report.

What they're saying: "The legislative session is underway in March and it's time for Florida lawmakers to take action to stop these red tide outbreaks that hurt our environment, tourism and economy," said Jon Paul "J.P." Brooker, director of the Florida Conservation Program at Ocean Conservancy, via email.

What we're watching: The University of South Florida's short-term red tide forecast predicts that the upper water column will move offshore red tide to the east and south over the next few days.

For information on specific beaches:


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