SARASOTA (WWSB) - Red tide moves through the water in patches. On Monday afternoon, beachgoers were experiencing respiratory irritation on Coquina Beach. 24 hours later, more than a dozen visitors enjoyed the water and sand without any reports of respiratory irritants.
Mote Marine staff scientist Dr. Tracy Fanara told ABC7 the effects of red tide depend on bloom concentrations, currents, and wind direction. Those factors are constantly changing making it hard to predict conditions beyond a few days in advance.
Dr. Fanara compared the challenge of forecasting red tide to the difficulty of projecting a hurricane weeks in advance.
“We’ve had a fraction of that [hurricane research] funding and effort to do that kind of research so of course you know making those long term forecasts are going to be very difficult,” explained Dr. Fanara.
With the constantly changing conditions, tourist-dependent businesses get many questions from guests.
“Their main concerns are ‘Are there dead fish on the beach? Does it smell bad? Are there respiratory issues?’” said Cory Huffman, Manager of the Bungalow Beach Resort on Anna Maria Island.
Scientists are able to predict the respiratory irritation and future blooms a few days in advance based on currents, the wind, and bloom concentrations.
Visitors looking to plan a trip to the beach in a couple of weeks will have to wait to get a better idea of conditions.