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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has confirmed the presence of red tide along the gulf coast along the Pinellas beaches. Here’s what we know:

First, red tide, also known as Karenia Brevis, is a microscopic alga that occurs naturally. According to floridahealth.gov, the toxins given off by red tide affects animals including birds, fish and mammals. The blooms may turn the color of the water to a reddish, green or brown hue. The Tampa Bay area is often affected by red tide when weather conditions become warm.

Red Tide In Florida's Tampa Bay Area

Red tide has caused fish kills along the Gulf of Mexico beaches in Pinellas County.
(Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

  • Where Is Red Tide Found?

    Though red tide can occur anywhere in the world, k. brevis is found mostly in the Gulf of Mexico and off the southeast coast of the U.S.A., sometimes as far north as North Carolina. It can last for durations ranging from days to months, and it can be affected by wind conditions and water currents.

  • How Does Red Tide Affect People?

    Contact with red tide can irritate the skin, and breathing the toxins can cause coughing, sneezing, and teary eyes. For those with respiratory issues, red tide should be avoided.

  • Where Is Red Tide Being Measured With Medium Or High Levels

    Beginning with measurements taken March 1, medium to high levels have been found from as far south as Boca Grande Pier at Gasparilla Sound. On the north end, it has been measure as far north as Morgan Park Beach in Belleair Beach.

    High levels were found at:

    • Treasure Island Beach
    • 2.7 miles west of Sunset Beach
    • Devils Elbow, located between Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach
    • Longboat Pass Boat Ramp at Sarasota Bay
    • New Pass and New Pass Dock off Sarasota
    • Big Sarasota Pass
    • Englewood Beach

    There were also several places south of Ft. Myers that measure high levels of red tide.

  • What Can Be Done During Red Tide?

    Swimming during red tide is possible, but as we pointed out, contact with the algae can cause irritation. If this occurs, the affected area should be washed away with fresh water.

    Toxins from medium and high levels of red tide can get into the air, and breathing issues can often be decreased with over-the-counter antihistamines. (According to floridahealth.gov). Masks can also help control affects of airborne red tide toxins.

  • Is Seafood Safe?

    The smple answer is yes. If you get it in a restaurant or store, it’s most likely not from an affected area. For those who fish recreationally, mollusks from affected waters should not be eaten.

    Finfish can be eaten if caught while alive and healthy if they are filleted. Never try to eat fish that appear to distressed or dead.

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