Red Tides are a natural phenomenon that occur in Southwest Florida, as well as around the world.
In the Gulf of Mexico, they are caused by microscopic algae that tint the water a reddish brown, and at higher concentrations are toxic to fish and people.
The algae paralyzes the central nervous system of fish so they can't breathe and beaches can become littered with dead fish.
For that reason, and to be on the safe side, you should only buy and eat fish and shellfish from supermarkets as they buy from sources that fish in certified waters.
Never eat eat collected shellfish, you can get very sick if they have been affected by the algal bloom.
According to professional fishermen, it's okay to eat the shrimp, crabs, and the fillet of fish since the toxin is not absorbed into fleshy tissues. But, never eat sick and dying fish.
Red tide symptoms include respiratory problems and eye irritations. Be careful while walking on the beach, people with asthma should be especially vigilant.
You may even see dead fish washed up on the shore ...... not exactly what you want to see when you're at the beach. I get particularly upset when manatees start dying.
No one knows the exact cause, sometimes they appear to be a natural result from the movement of currents, and sometimes from human causes such as pollution.
Not all of these algal blooms are toxic. What is interesting is that fishing guides are often the first to know that a red tide is about to threaten, because they are out in open waters more often.
I've noticed that the blooms tend to occur once or twice a year usually between August and February.
Go to the Red Tides Report on the NOAA website to check their Harmful Algal Bloom Forecasts.
But, don't let that keep you from coming to Captiva, Sanibel, or Ft Myers Beach. It may be hard to figure out when to plan your vacation, but even if you come down during an algal bloom, tides and winds clear up the beaches and air within a few days.
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