Red tide is back on Longboat Key.
The Florida Wildlife Commission and Mote Marine Laboratory officials confirmed it Tuesday morning, Sept. 20.
A week later, it’s now been confirmed to be afflicting Siesta Key and Lido Key beaches as well.
Kelly Richmond, communication director for the Florida Wildlife Commission, said Friday this red tide outbreak could last anywhere from two weeks to a few months.
“This is the time of year we get red tide,” Richmond said. “There’s so many factors involved we can’t pinpoint how long it’s going to be here.”
Longboat Key turtle monitor Terri Driver was one of the first to notice the aromatic issue. She said she was taking a lunch break on the beach when she “started smelling something unusual.”
“Then I looked out on the water and there were hundreds and hundreds (of dead fish),” she said.
By the following weekend, the smells and respiratory challenges had worsened, she said.
“I starting coughing a bit Friday so it seems to be picking up,” Driver said. “Others are, too. I think it’s getting worse. I just have that coughing feeling. It definitely looks not so pretty out there.”
Tuesday, Enrique Formoso and his family sought refuge from the bloom at the Shell Road beach access on Siesta, where there were no signs of dead fish or seaweed. They even caught some snapper — alive — though they don’t know whether they will keep the catch.
“It’s the worst at the main beach,” said Formoso, who is visiting from Miami.
Indeed, the shoreline at the main beach access was littered with dead fish this week, as was most of Turtle Beach, on which there were fewer than 10 beachgoers Tuesday.
The latest FWC report on red-tide testing was not especially encouraging. Karenia brevis, the Florida red tide organism, was observed in background to high concentrations in 41 samples collected from Manatee and Sarasota counties. Fish kills affecting multiple species, along with slight respiratory irritation, have been reported in Manatee and Sarasota counties since Sept. 19.
Richmond said the FWC started receiving fish kill phone calls Monday, Sept. 19. A FWC investigative team went to Longboat Key and found a different species of dead fish: Manhattan, eels, mullet, bait fish and one red drum.
“We do have a high concentration of red tide but it is patchy,” Richmond said.
This latest dose of Karenia brevis first surfaced Sept. 16 in the FWC red tide report in background concentrations to very low concentrations in four samples collected from Manatee County and background to low concentrations in 20 samples collected from Sarasota County. FWC is doing weekly sampling and Mote is doing daily sampling along Sarasota Bay.
Juan Florensa, Public Works Department director, said red tide is dispersed along certain areas of the island where fish have been washing up dead such as the Broadway access.
“Hopefully it will be a small (outbreak),” Florensa said. “We don’t know yet. We’re holding our breath here, pardon the pun. Hopefully the tide will take it.”
Dead fish are accumulating along the shoreline from Beer Can Island as far south as central Longboat Key.
If the fish kills grow too onerous, the town could mount a cleanup effort, Florensa said.
“In the past the town has done so when it gets to certain levels,” Florensa said.
Driver just hopes it will be a shorter red-tide stay than a year ago.
“Last year’s red tide went for more than six months bouncing from the Gulf to the Sarasota Bay. It was so miserable. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again,” Driver said.