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Red tide lingers in Southwest Florida

March 7, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The dead fish dotting Fort Myers Beach are indicators of the red tide bloom in Southwest Florida's waters.

According to Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission's red tide report, dated March 2, numerous fish kills have been reported in Lee and Collier counties. In Lee County, some reports of the respiratory issues that are associated with red tide were received from Lovers Key State Park and Lynn Hall Park.

Rae Burns, environmental technician for the Town of Fort Myers Beach, said as of last week the red tide organism was still off shore.

"There's red tide around us, not directly on us," she said. "The south end of the island is starting to report the allergic reaction."

FWC tests for red tide, but the results take several days to come back. The samples from the March 2 report were taken on Feb. 26.

Last week, many of the marine species washing ashore were "lower-dwelling," she said, such as black drum, bonnet sharks and stingrays.

"It's a natural occurrence," she said. "Please don't clean them up yourself. Don't bury them or touch them. The town is aware of the issue."

Red tide is a harmful algal bloom produced by an organism called Karenia brevis. The bloom can last anywhere from a few weeks to months, or subside and return. According to the FWC, the red tide blooms are not a new phenomenon - fish kills have been documented in the records of Spanish explorers.

The organism produces toxic chemicals that affect the nervous system of fish and other vertebrates, killing them. The toxins can be released into the air and cause respiratory irritation in some humans and other mammals. The water itself is safe more most to swim in, but red tide can cause some people to suffer skin irritation and a burning sensation in their eyes. For more information on red tide, visit To view latest reports on red tide status, go to



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