Red Tide Bloom Found Near Lighthouse Beach, Gulfside City Park

Santiva Chronicle Staff Report

A single dead fish on a Sanibel beach as a result of patchy red tide bloom alongshore and up to 20 miles offshore of Lee County. SC photo by Chuck Larsen

The Lee County Health Department and Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Lab announced last week there was a red tide bloom near Lighthouse Beach Park and Gulfside City Park.

SCCF Marine Lab said water sampling on Monday, Dec. 14 found Karenia brevis, which blooms into red tide, ranging from 50,000 cells per liter at the northernmost Pine Island Sound to a very high count of 21 million million cells per liter at Gulfside City Park Beach. The marine lab will continue to monitor a red tide bloom south of Sanibel.

The Lee County Health Department issued a red tide health alert Tuesday, Dec. 15, for Lighthouse Beach Park. In its alert, the department said some people may have mild and short-lived respiratory symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation similar to a cold. And some individuals with breathing problems such as asthma might experience more severe symptoms.

Although the extent of the bloom and its impacts to Sanibel beaches, including possible fish kills and the respiratory irritation, can vary greatly from day to day and even hour to hour depending on winds, tides and currents.

“Red tide impacts can be really variable because of wind patterns,” said Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick in a statement released Wednesday, Dec. 16 by SCCF. “But there are very few days when all beaches will be affected by red tide, and often your favorite beach is only affected part of the day.”

Kirkpatrick is executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System and an environmental health scientist who conducted the first studies documenting the impacts of Florida red tide blooms on human health.

SCCF Marine Lab, as part of its monitoring, provides some of the counts of the Karenia brevis from water samples to the Red Tide Respiratory Forecast online tool that can be used to plan beach visits along our coasts. Kirkpatrick said the tool lets people “see which beaches might be impacted by red tide and at what time of the day” and it can be used “the same way they use other weather reports.”

The City of Sanibel said Thursday, Dec. 17, that its public works department was picking up dead fish along the beaches as conditions warrant and issued guidance for private property owners on removing dead fish from the beach along their respective properties.

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