The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, was detected in 69 samples collected from Southwest Florida as of Dec. 9.
Bloom concentrations, or those with more than 100,000 cells per liter, were present in 29 samples — four in and off the shore of Pinellas County, four off the shore of Hillsborough County, two in Manatee County, and 19 in Sarasota County.
Over the past week, K. brevis was observed at background to high concentrations in and off the shore of Pinellas, very low to high concentrations in and off the shore of Hillsborough, background to medium concentrations in and off the shore of Manatee, background to high concentrations in Sarasota, low concentrations in Charlotte County, background to low concentrations in Lee County, and background concentrations in Collier County.
Red tide was not observed in northwest Florida or the state’s east coast.
FWC’s current-status map as of Dec. 9 showed medium-concentration outbreaks at Treasure Island and Pass-a-Grille beaches. There was a high concentration at Maximo Park near the approach to the Sunshine Skyway and a low-concentration outbreak at Fort DeSoto Park.
Reports of fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were received over the past week from Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Lee, and Collier counties. Respiratory irritation suspected to be related to red tide was reported via the Beach Conditions Reporting System over the past week in Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Lee, and Collier counties.
The Florida Department of Health-Pinellas County said that some people may have mild and short-lived respiratory symptoms such as eye, nose, and throat irritation similar to cold symptoms. Some individuals with breathing problems such as asthma might experience more severe symptoms. Usually, symptoms go away when a person leaves the area or goes indoors.
Health officials recommend that people experiencing these symptoms stay away from beach areas or go into an air-conditioned space. If symptoms do not subside, contact your health care provider for evaluation.
DOH-Pinellas recommends these steps:
• Do not swim around dead fish.
• If you have chronic respiratory problems, be careful and consider staying away from locations with red tide as it can affect your breathing.
• Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish and distressed or dead fish from affected locations. If fish are healthy, rinse fillets with tap or bottled water and throw out the guts.
• Keep pets away from water, sea foam and dead sea life.
• Residents living in beach areas are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner.
• If outdoors, residents may choose to wear paper filter masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing.
For recent and current information at individual beaches, visit https://visitbeaches.org/.
For information about Red Tide and links to other resources, visit http://pinellas.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/environmental-health/water-programs/red-tide/index.html.