Tourists and residents of Sanibel Island are battling the horrific smell of thousands of rotting fish today as an occurrence of red tide takes its toll.
A shocking amount of dead fish were found washed up along the coast of Sanibel Island in Florida this week. According to officials, the mass deaths were a result of toxic red tide.
Red tide is a term that is used to describe an algae bloom that is known to makes the water around it uninhabitable by fish. Although red tide is not lethal to humans, it can cause cold-like symptoms and could even be dangerous to people with severe allergies.
A Sanibel Island website, Sanibel H20 Matters, provides a detailed description of red tide.
“Red tide is a common term used to describe a type of harmful algal bloom (HAB) resulting when colonies of algae proliferate and produce harmful effects to humans, fish, shellfish or other organisms. When the algae are present in high concentrations, the water may appear to be discolored or murky, varying in color from purple to red, or green. Not all discolored waters associated with red tide blooms are red, and concentrations are not always high enough to discolor the water.”
The site goes on to indicate that although it is called red tide, the algae blooms have nothing to do with the tide at all. In fact, they don’t always turn the water red, either.
Karenia brevis is the single-celled algae in Florida that causes red tide. During blooms, dead fish are a common sight along the beaches.
The algae is even more lethal to surface breathing animals that live in the sea. Animals like dolphins and sea turtles tend to breath at a depth where red tide is most concentrated.
Although red tide has occurred several times in the past few years, this is the most significant occurrence for a long time.
The Northern Californian talked over red tide with a water quality scientist, Rick Bartleson.
Bartleson is from the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and he was clear in stating that the current problem is significant.
According to the publication, the count of algae in Sanibel has been measured at between 500,000 and 760,000 cells a liter. To put that in perspective, it only takes 10,000 cells per liter to begin killing fish.
“Some (fish) have been missing their eyes for a while, but you can smell the red tide and cell counts are elevated,” Bartleson said. “The fish probably didn’t wash from a distance away. It was most likely pretty close to Sanibel or right at Sanibel.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has indicated that red tide is common for November in Florida and that there’s no telling just how long this red tide will last.
“It’s been a large number of years since we’ve had a significant fish kill related to red tide on our beaches,” biologist Holly Milbrandt told Fox. “So we don’t really know what to expect at this point we’ll continue to monitor it for as long as we need to.”
Meanwhile, tourists visiting Florida to escape colder weather are losing their patience.
Several tourists spoke to the Northern Californian. Almost all of them complained about the horrific smell caused by red tide.
One couple from New York explained that they might have walked right into the piles of dead fish if they hadn’t thought to bring a flash light with them when they were exploring during the night.
“It makes you not want to stay for long or go in the water,” tourist Eileen Hamilton told Fox. “It worries you a little bit.”
[Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]