What Causes a Red Tide?

January 2, 2020

What is a red tide? Red tide is a condition in shoreline waters that is a result of algal blooms. During a red tide, there is so much algae that the water can start to change colors to a reddish hue. The result of this overabundance of algae is a depletion of oxygen in the affected waters, as well as a release of toxins into the water that can be harmful to animals and humans.

There are several specific species of algae that are found throughout the United States that can cause this problem. There is Alexandrium fundyense, which is common in the Atlantic Ocean in the Northeast, Karenia brevis, which is common in the Gulf of Mexico (and particularly on the western coast of Florida) and there’s Alexadrium catenella, which is located on the Pacific coast.

Here are a few facts you should know about red tide so you can stay safe and healthy when the water conditions deteriorate.

What causes red tide in Sarasota, FL?

There are several factors that can cause the proliferation of these algae blooms. Some of the most common factors include warm temperatures at the surface level of the ocean, a low salinity content, calm waters, high nutrient content in the water and periods of rain followed by sunny days during the hot and humid summer months.

There are some circumstances in which the algae that causes red tide is actually carried from across distances by currents, winds, storms or even ships. In the right conditions, the algae can spread very quickly.

What you should know about the effects of red tides

When red tides occur, there will be warnings in the form of public service announcements in publications and television news, as well as signage put up on beaches and at marinas and docks.

The most harmful aspect of red tides is the natural toxin they produce. Scientists are actually not sure exactly why the algae create these toxins, but there has been plenty of research done on the effects of them. During a red tide, fish and krill (who are unaffected by the toxins created by affected algae) will continue to eat the algae, and as they do so the toxins in the algae get concentrated to such a degree that those fish and krill then become poisonous to any other organisms that feed on them, including larger fish, water mammals and birds.

Humans can also be affected by exposure to red tide algal blooms. Diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) is one example of a condition that can arise due to red tides, though it is more commonly found in Asia. It can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, cramps and abdominal pain.

A more common disease in America is paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). Eating shellfish that have been affected by the red algal blooms can cause disruption of nerve function, and in extreme cases can cause paralysis and death. In addition, people who go into the water during red tides may experience rashes and irritation.

For more information about red tides in Sarasota, FL, contact Charter Boat Shark today.

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