Everything A Fisherman Needs to Know About RED TIDE
What is red tide?
Red tide is a very large algal bloom to the point of harmful concentrations. Algae is a microscopic plant-like organism found naturally in the marine environment. The toxicity of red tide comes when the algae actually dies.
What kills the fish?
June of 2018 brought large fish kills on the gulf coast of Florida. This bloom was the algae “Karenia Brevis” or K. Brevis. This specific algae species is often called “Florida Red Tide”. The bloom kills the fish when the algae dies off. Red tide algae releases a toxin that scientists call brevetoxin which affects the central nervous system of fish.
Can I eat the fish I catch during red tide?
Yes you can. The one caveat is that you’ll want to fillet your catch. The toxin can be on the skin and in the guts of your fish. As long as you are discarding the carcass and eating the filets you are good to go. The meat does not contain the brevetoxin. However, DO NOT eat shellfish collected during a red tide. They can store the toxin in their flesh.
Does it affect other animals?
Unfortunately, yes it does. Other marine animals such as dolphins, manatees and other vertebrates like birds may be affected and even die if the concentration of the bloom is high enough.
Can I swim in the water at the beach?
Generally speaking, you’ll have to use common sense. If there are dead fish floating nearby, there are likely high concentrations of bacteria in the water. Your body will tell you if you need to stay out of the water. For instance, when red tide blooms are present, many people will cough and feel like their lungs itch. This would be a good reason to keep your distance from the beach. Others may be sensitive to red tide toxins on their skin. If you have a history of having sensitive skin do not take chances with red tide. Another thing to note is that your pets, specifically dogs, lick and groom themselves when they come out of the water. This would be a reason to keep the animals out of a red tide bloom.
What if I live on the beach?
The bloom often gets washed up on the beach where the waves break up the dying algae and release the brevetoxin. This means that, depending on which way the wind is blowing, homes near the beach may be close enough to be affected. If you are fortunate enough to live very close to the beach be prepared for the inconvenience when you hear of red tide in the area. Simply keep the AC running and maybe change the filters more frequently. A simple painters mask may be in order when you go out to mow the lawn.
Does freshwater runoff cause red tide?
“Florida Red Tide” or K. Brevis specifically, develops offshore and travels in depending on weather conditions. This means that runoff does not cause Florida Red Tide. However, red tide is defined as a harmful algal bloom and is also caused by other species of algae. These other species of algae may be fueled by the extra nutrients that freshwater runoff adds to the coastal waters. Generally speaking, the nutrients pouring into our coastal areas are harmful in that they have the ability to fuel algal growth.
Can we control a red tide outbreak?
Sadly, not really. If we were to apply chemical to kill the algae, the algae would release the brevetoxin when it died. Without a way to capture the toxin we have done no good. Nevermind the fact that we would have just dumped chemical into the water in order to kill the bloom. Nobody is advocating for that approach.
Should I go fishing?
Yes. Yes you should. You should go fishing any time you can. Red tide outbreaks should be monitored and you should stay away from high concentrations. Use these times to locate a new honey hole away from your usual spot. Adapt and overcome. Any day fishing is a good day.
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