Red tide bloom bigger than Rhode Island heads for Suncoast

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- One of the largest red tide blooms in recent memory is now in the Gulf of Mexico.

The tide is about 50 miles offshore, between Dixie and Pascoe counties. It stretches 80 miles long and 50 miles wide—larger than the State of Rhode Island.

“It’s rather extensive and looks fairly intense,” Mote Marine scientist Vince Lovko described.

This is the largest bloom in the Gulf since 2006.

For beachgoers, the forecast looks safe for now; but not for the marine life in the vicinity of the bloom.

“This one is causing a lot of fish kills and a lot of reef organisms offshore,” said Lovko.

Heading offshore early Thursday morning, researchers with Mote Marine traveled about 100 miles from Sarasota to the center of the algae.

“This whole thing is a puzzle, a case that we are trying to study. What we are doing today is collecting basic pieces to pit that puzzle together.”

“We want to get in front of the bloom to see what's happening beneath the surface, and that may help us tell where it's going.”

Beachgoers on Lido Key like Bradenton resident Sue Johnson just hope it's not heading this way.

“I've been out here before when it has been in full bloom, and it does make it very hard to breathe; and depending on how aggressive it is, can make you cough. I try to stay away when the reports are that there is a full bloom going on,” said Johnson.

Researchers at Mote say it's much too early to tell what type of impact this particular bloom will have on our Suncoast beaches—or if there will be any real impact at all.

They do say, however, that it is moving southeast. But if a storm system were to move through the area, it could cause the tide to dissipate.