When Longboat Key Public Works Director Juan Florensa went to the beach last week, he didn’t get a tickle in his throat or start sneezing.
That’s a good sign, because it suggests that red tide’s impacts are minimal.
The latest Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission red-tide report showed that Karenia brevis, the organism that causes red tide, was detected in low levels, defined as 10,000 to 100,000 cells per liter, along Longboat Pass Jan. 22.
The prior week, samples showed high concentrations, defined as concentrations of 1 million or more, east of Longboat Key in the Sarasota Bay system.
According to Florensa, levels remain low a week-and-a-half after the town completed a cleanup to remove dead fish from the island’s beaches.
“We took about 14 tons of dead fish to the landfill,” he said. “None of them has come back.”
Red tide wasn’t responsible for all of the fish kills.
December and January are peak months for mullet season in local waters.
During those months, fishermen from across the country converge in the area.
But, because female mullet contain roe, which is prized as a delicacy in some parts of the world, they are more valuable than males. As a result, fishermen often discard males, creating an influx of dead fish in the water.
Red-tide levels remain high at several local beaches, including Siesta Key and Englewood Beach.
According to Mote Marine Laboratory’s website, mote.org, offshore winds usually keep respiratory effects people on the shore experience to a minimum, although the Florida Department of Health advises people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions to avoid red-tide areas.
Swimming is safe for most people, although red tide may cause skin irritation or burning eyes. Beachgoers should avoid swimming in areas with dead fish, because they can be associated with harmful bacteria.