Florida Red Tide


Caden Brannan, Reporter

The rapid growth of the toxic algae, Karenia brevis, has been destroying nearly 130 miles of the Florida Gulf Coast. This is called the Red Tide.  The red coloring in the water is due to the excessive algae. The shorelines are covered with thousands of dead fish and birds. The algae has already killed more than 50 endangered manatees, 12 dolphins, 300 sea turtles, one whale shark and hundreds of crabs. The manatees are being killed after they accidentally eat contaminated sea grass. The toxins make the birds unable to stand and makes it harder for the birds to fly. They eventually develop seizures or die of dehydration. The algae also harms shrimp, crab and shellfish due to the extremely low oxygen levels.   

With all of the ocean life being killed off it is also harming the local economy. There are hundreds of people that rely on the ocean for food and money. The tourism has gone down dramatically because of the way the beaches look and smell.

“We came for the shark teeth, but we’re going to have to move somewhere else,” said Sol Whitten, who came from a county north of Tampa with his wife, six grandchildren and his daughter-in-law.

While being dangerous for marine life, the Red Tide is also dangerous for humans. People that have been around the ocean have developed respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological problems. The effects of the toxic algae could be prevented by wearing shoes on the beach and also staying out of the contaminated water as much as possible.

The Red Tide happens almost yearly off the coast of Florida, but over the last 60 years the effects have gotten extremely worse.

Vincent Lovko with Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota explained, “Red tide is present here all the time, as far as we know. It’s endemic, meaning it belongs here. It’s been here for a very long time,” Lovko said.

This year experts believe that the Sahara Desert could have something to do with the extreme effects of this years Red Tide. Every year there are a couple months where the winds over the Sahara Desert pick up and carry particles of sand across the Atlantic Ocean . The sand ends up in and around the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Usually it will gather in the air above Texas or it will help build islands. But this year the sand happened to land in the Gulf the same time the Red Tide began to form. And instead of the sand falling to the bottom of the ocean, it helped fuel the algae growth.