Researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) say they are currently monitoring two red tide blooms in Florida's Gulf Coast, located in the northwest and southwest region.

Four water samples were collected on Oct. 26 alongshore Pinellas County and they tested positive for red tide in two areas. They added that the bloom in Panhandle is affecting other areas of Santa Rosa, Walton, Okaloosa, Bay and Gulf counties.

Meanwhile, in the southwest part of Florida, there were patchy blooms of algae found in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, Pinellas and Lee counties.

"We confirmed the presence of both blooms in September, and they have persisted since that time," said Alina Corcoran, FWC research scientist.

The state wildlife officials confirmed that the bloom off southwest Florida is less problematic than the other one off the Panhandle wherein more fish kills and respiratory irritations among people were reported.

Red Tide is a condition wherein a harmful algal bloom (HAB) emerges in coasts that can produce toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish and marine mammals. This means that naturally-occurring microscopic algae that are found in waters grow out of control and could pose detrimental effects not only on sea creatures but on humans who eat contaminated seafood.

One of the most popular HABs in the nation occurs almost every summer along Florida's Gulf Coast. However, the two blooms which emerged last September are still persistent and health officials are recommending the ban on gathering of bivalve mollusks like hard clams, oysters and mussels.

Neurotoxic shellfish poisons (NSP) are naturally occurring toxins or brevetoxins excreted by microscopic algae. When shellfish are contaminated with brevetoxins, which are produced by a marine dinoflagellate called Karenia brevis, they could cause serious health effects (neurotoxic shellfish poisoning) to humans.

Symptoms of the illness include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, sensations like tingling, pricking or burning, lack of muscle control or paralysis and muscle pain. In severe cases, the heart rate might slow down but the symptoms may vary from one person to another.

FWC is working with other government agencies and partners, such as Mote Marine Laboratory, University of South Florida, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to track and determine means on how they can inform citizens and scientists on the status of blooms in Florida.

"Citizen scientists play a vital role in tracking blooms. Volunteers can provide the majority of water samples for bloom tracking in regions like the Panhandle," added Corcoran.

Photo: Terry Ross | Flickr 

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