SARASOTA (WWSB) - The patchy bloom of red tide algae that’s still along the Suncoast is getting patchier as cold weather moves in, but Mote Marine Lab says the cold weather likely won’t affect the bloom.
Red tide has been along the shore since last year and this summer caused numerous issues for residents and visitors to the area. In recent weeks, though concentrations have remained high, there has been less intensity. Some have credited the cooler temperatures, but Mote says the water temperature for Sarasota County beaches still remains between 70 and 72 degrees.
“Just because the air temperature reaches below 60 degrees doesn’t necessarily mean that the water column and throughout the water column will be below that 60 degree mark,” Mote’s Program Manager of Environmental Health, Dr. Tracy Fanara explained.
Dr. Fanara said red tide thrives in temperatures between 60 and 86 degrees, at least in a laboratory. Mote said in order for the water temperature to change we would have to experience cold temperatures for a long period of time.
“Because Karenia Brevis has such a wide temperature range that it can exist and thrive in, you would really need sustained and cold temperatures to make that water temperature get in those levels where Karenia Brevis is stressed,” said Dr. Fanara.
Over the past couple of weeks, though high concentrations can still be found, there's been an overall decrease in the number of tests collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that show high concentrations.
This was the map on November 21, 2018:
And here is the map released on November 28, 2018:
Though you still see plenty of red dots, indicating high concentrations, you see far fewer. Looking at the daily sample map, it's easier to see that most beaches on the Suncoast have low or medium concentrations of red tide rather than high concentrations:
FWC says fish kills and respiratory irritation were still reported in Manatee and Sarasota counties. And though things look better in our area overall, sea life is still being affected by the bloom. Over the past week, more than 22 dead dolphins have washed ashore in the Naples, FL area.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine mammal stranding coordinator Blair Mase says tests need to be completed but it seems brevetoxin from red tide is killing the dolphins and other animals as dead sea turtles and birds were also reported.
Forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides for Pinellas to northern Monroe counties predict net southwestern transport of surface waters and net southeastern transport of subsurface waters in most areas over the next four days.
As always, if you’re planning on heading to the beach, check VisitBeaches.org for the latest conditions and the daily sample map from FWC to determine if the beach you’re looking to go to is free of red tide. Conditions can change daily, depending on the movement of the water, the direction of the wind, and more.