Red tide bloom still looms in the gulf

Sarasota County

Despite the recent picture-perfect beach conditions, red tide is still a threat in the gulf.

Over the past few days, FWC has discovered high concentrations of red tide off Sarasota County.

There have been respiratory issues reported across Sarasota county beaches, and this government shutdown has hampered efforts to track this bloom.

Over the past few weeks, the beaches have looked great. Across our region, the conditions were perfect. Local headlines praised the news that red tide was gone.

But a few miles offshore, there’s a different story.

Pictures from Mote Marine Lab show the bloom hasn’t gone anywhere. There are large, dark patches of water looming in the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.

“We still have that same bloom of Florida red tide that’s been around since November 2017,” said Dr. Tracy Fanara with Mote Marine Lab.

Dr. Fanara says satellite imagery shows red tide off the coasts of Sarasota and Estero.

Scientists have been hampered lately. For more than two weeks, the government shutdown really limited their satellite imagery, so only just now are they getting a clear picture of the bloom.

To get a good idea of its impact, just go to a local fish market, like the Star Fish Company in Cortez.

“Normally you got traps out in the bay along the shore in the gulf, it’s been real slow here for the crabbers,” said Joe Rogers.

Stone crab fishermen have had to travel five hours north just to find this delicacy. The local population has vanished.

“Sadly, it means they’re even more expensive than they’ve ever been,” said Karen Bell with the AP Bell Fish Company.

But Dr. Fanara is hopeful the bloom is shrinking. 

“We’re all hopeful that this is the beginning of the end,” said Dr. Fanara.

Despite the continued shutdown, Mote Marine Lab and various agencies now have access to their satellite imagery, and they’ll continue their red tide tracking. Everyone is hoping for the best.

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