Red Tide Outbreak in Southwest Florida


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports a bloom of Karenia brevis, the Florida red tide organism, persists along Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and northern Collier counties in Southwest Florida.

Many red tides produce toxic chemicals that can affect both marine organisms and humans. The Florida red tide organism, K. brevis, produces brevetoxins that can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates, causing these animals to die. Wave action can break open K. brevis cells and release these toxins into the air, leading to respiratory irritation.  For people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, red tide can cause serious illness. The red tide toxins can also accumulate in molluscan filter-feeders such as oysters and clams, which can lead to Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning in people who consume contaminated shellfish.

Is it OK to eat local finfish during a red tide?
Yes, it is safe to eat local finfish as long as the fish are filleted before eaten. Although toxins may accumulate in the guts of fish, these areas are disposed of when the fish are filleted. However, it is never a good idea to eat dead or distressed animals, especially in a red tide area, because the reason for the animal’s strange behavior or death cannot be absolutely known.

Does cooking or freezing destroy the Florida red tide toxin?
No, cooking or freezing does not destroy the red tide toxin. Furthermore, the toxin cannot be seen or tasted.

Report of Concentration Levels:


Karenia brevis was detected in low to high concentrations in 9 samples collected in and alongshore of Pinellas County; background to medium concentrations in 22 samples collected inshore of Hillsborough County; low to medium concentrations in 18 samples collected in, along, and offshore of Manatee County; background to high concentrations in 35 samples collected in, along, and offshores of Sarasota County; very low to medium concentrations in 10 samples collected in, along, and offshore of Charlotte County; background to high concentrations in 31 samples collected in, along, and offshore of Lee County; and very low to medium concentrations in 2 samples collected offshore of northern Collier County.

Respiratory irritation continues to be reported in several bloom areas of Southwest Florida.  Forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides show a slight southern movement of bloom waters in Southwest Florida over the next 3 days.

Background concentrations of K. brevis were also observed in one sample collected offshore of Okaloosa County in Northwest Florida. Along the Gulf Coast, samples were not collected in the past week from Walton, Gulf, Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson, Taylor, or Citrus counties.