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Red Tide

Red Tide


Red tide is a natural occurrence that goes way back to the 1800s. However, according to recent studies, this event occurring more frequently. This is most likely due to climate changes and agricultural pollution from commercial farming and landscaping operations. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, red tide accounts for approximately 82 million dollars worth of annual loss in tourism industries within the United States. Red tide occurs when microscopic algae- dinoflagellates (producers of oxygen in the ocean and freshwater)- grows out of control. The overgrowth of the algae blooms Karenia Brevis is what gives surface of water a deep red appearance. Red tide generally start about 40-80 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and slowly moves with ocean currents along Florida’s west coast The more intense bloom development occurs during September – February and can last 18 months or longer.




Red tide is known for its toxicity which is harmful to both the environment and humans. Karenia Brevis produces a neurotoxin call brevetoxins which are like being hit with tear gas. First you notice the smell; which isn’t so much a scent rather a tingling sensation in the nose that spreads into the throat and burns the lungs. The toxins can irritate people’s skin and cause respiratory illnesses especially for people with asthma.


The toxins are also harmful to marine mammals, birds, and turtles when they ingest contaminated prey. Red tide not only causes toxic oceans, but also a phenomenon known as dead zone, when the water is depleted of dissolved oxygen. When the algae die, they become a feast for microbes like bacteria. As the microbes multiply they consume much of the oxygen in the ocean which leaves little for fish and other creatures that breathe underwater. When this happens fish die in large groups leaving the ocean surface covered in floating dead fish. The toxins produced by a red tide accumulates in filter-feeder mollusks such as oysters and clams. It is illegal to harvest bivalve mollusks during a red tide.


In Florida red tides have been known to last for up to 18 months at a time. Florida was recently experience several beach closures due to the mass amounts of dead fish that washed up on shores across Florida. The surf also breaks open the toxic blooms releasing the toxins in the air causing respiratory illnesses. In result, several Florida counties were placed under a States of Emergency . Many thought that Hurricane Michael would break up the red tide as it made its way through the Florida panhandle. However, test show that the red tide bloom amount remained the same after this devastating storm passed. Tropical storms may affect red tides by moving ocean water around. When the current occurrence of red tide will end remains undetermined; however, one thing is for sure, it will be back.


The algae blooms associated with red tide die before reaching the ocean floor. The decaying blooms rarely reach water deeper than 6 feet. Fish that instinctively avoid upper depths (where the decaying algae is present) by default avoid the toxin the red tide produces. Therefore, fishing deeper waters will remain, in large part, unaffected. Another tip for fishing during a red tide: move inland. Fishing inshore allows you to fish waters with less salinity which are less likely to be affected. In short it’s best to fill your live well with clean water. Recycling the live well water is a must when it comes to keeping bait fish alive. The best way to monitor the red tide is by staying current on predictions by NOAA Harmful Algal Bloom Operational Forecast System. Thus, help making a fishing trip during a red tide safe and successful.

Questions: We can Help

If you have any questions about how red tide may effect your upcoming fishing trip with Intercoastal Safaris please call our hospitality desk 850-375-2223


Written By: Ashley Conway

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