Red Tide and Blue-Green Algae: What You Need to Know
Where to find the most reliable information about the safety of Southwest Florida's beaches and water
Fort Myers Beach has been marked by empty beach chairs and, sadly, masses of dead fish. Although Lee County had worked hard to clear decaying marine life from the main beach, in less-populated pockets, you could get a sense of the devastation caused by the red tide bloom.
Photography by Jennifer Reed
Editor's Note 8/20/18: If you're looking to help, the Community Foundation of Collier County has started the Care For Collier Fund to Support Red Tide Relief. Donate here.
Southwest Florida waters have been hit hard recently. The red tide in the Gulf combined with the blue-green algae blooms from the Caloosahatchee River has caused some noxious conditions. Dead fish, manatees and other sea life are washing up. Even a walk along the beach can leave some people coughing and rubbing their eyes. So, what to do?
First off, understand that we're facing two different issues: the red tide, a preponderance of a type of microscopic algae, is occurring in the Gulf; toxic algae blooms are developing in freshwater inland and spreading to local waters. These issues aren't new. In fact, red tide has been occurring in Florida for centuries. But what's happening now is particularly bad, due to a variety of issues.
Red tide and blue-green algae can be fatal for marine life. In humans, it isn't as serious. But it may affect you. Red tide can become airborne in areas close to the beach. It serves as an irritant to the respiratory system, so you may find yourself coughing, sneezing or getting an itchy throat. If you have asthma or a similar respiratory issue, it's best to avoid the beach. The blue-green algae is best avoided, as well. It can irritate the skin and, if ingested, can cause abdominal problems. The same goes for pets, too. (Refer to the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium's FAQ page for more.)
Just how bad is it? It's changing day-to-day. The best bet is to check the state and local resources listed below.
Visitbeaches.org is a good resource for a range of beach info statewide, including presence of red tide and dead sea life.