Increased red tide in Bird Key waters

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SARASOTA - Increased red tide levels have been detected in the waters near Bird Key Park in Sarasota.

It's a popular place for Suncoast residents to take their dogs, engage in water sports and begin their runs across the Ringling Bridge, but Sarasota County Health Department officials are now cautioning residents to keep pets out of the water.

The health department collected beach water samples on Monday, which were analyzed by Mote Marine Laboratory scientists who found some of the highest concentrations of red tide in these waters.

As a result, these signs were put up along the sidewalk to give people the heads up.

ABC 7 spoke to people on the Suncoast today that use the park daily who were surprised to hear about it, and for some, how deadly it could be to their pets.

It might look like a gorgeous day to take a stroll on Bird Key Park in Sarasota, but take a whiff in some locations and you'll notice a fishy smell, which is a good indicator of red tide. “Usually you can smell it, and it just feels scratchy in your throat, says Lori Wachob.

Wachob begins her jog there every day and says she was surprised to find out about the increased levels of the fish-killing algae. “Well I'm just getting over being sick, so I probably would have avoided it because it irritates my throat.”

She wasn't the only one unaware that high concentrations of red tide were found in water samples on Monday near this popular park, despite a few signs placed in the grass along the sidewalk. “No, that's not big enough, it kind of blends with the water you can't even see it so,” says Dianne Utsinger.

“I feel that when there is red tide they should make more signs and let the public know about it,” says Logan Phillips.

With the high amount of red tide in this part of Sarasota Bay, it can not only cause respiratory irritation from airborne toxins in humans, but also make their pets sick if they consume contaminated water or fish. “When we first started to stay here in motel rooms on the beaches, it would say red tide and what the danger is, but I didn't realize that extended to pets,” says Wachob.

“I'm a little disturbed. I know it's what we live with here in Sarasota, but if I had known it was here today, I wouldn't be here so now that you've told me I appreciate it and I'm going to leave as soon as possible.”

We should also note that there are no signs of dead fish washing up on Bird Key Park. Sarasota Health Department officials say they will test the water again on Tuesday.

As of right now, there are no signs of red tide at any beaches in Sarasota or Manatee counties.