Wrestling with Red Tide on Siesta Key Beaches

By Rachel Brown Hackney

   Once again, red tide has been plaguing beachgoers on Sarasota County’s shoreline, including Siesta Public Beach, Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have reported.

   In its June 15 update, the FWC noted that the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, continued to persist in Southwest Florida. However, as of that day, the report said, concentrations in 30 samples collected in Sarasota County showed very low to medium levels of the organism.

   Over the previous week, the report continued, “fish kills were reported in Southwest Florida in Sarasota County (Crescent Beach, Lido Key, Manasota Beach, New Pass, Nokomis Beach, Siesta Key, Venice Beach),” as well as Charlotte County and Lee County. Respiratory irritation was documented on Siesta from June 8 through June 15, the report added.

   The FWC also explained, “Red tide is a naturally-occurring microscopic alga that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840’s and occurs nearly every year. Blooms, or higher-than-normal concentrations, of the Florida red tide alga, Karenia brevis, frequently occur in the Gulf of Mexico. Red tide begins in the Gulf of Mexico 10 to 40 miles offshore and can be transported inshore by winds and currents.”

   Mote’s June 15 Beach Conditions report at 10:40 a.m. noted wind out of the northeast at 3.5 mph, with calm surf. Respiratory irritation was moderate, the report added, and some dead fish were located on the Siesta Public Beach.

   Mote’s Beach Conditions reports may be found at https://visitbeaches.org.

Two days earlier — in the afternoon of June 13 — the respiratory irritation level on Siesta was noted to be “Slight.”

   Yet, just after 9:30 a.m. the previous day — June 12 — the Mote report for Siesta noted an “Intense” respiratory irritation level and a “Heavy” amount of dead fish. The wind recorded on the beach was 3.72 mph out of the west at that time.