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The original item was published from 10/3/2018 11:13:45 AM to 10/3/2018 11:16:29 AM.

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Posted on: October 3, 2018

[ARCHIVED] Information on Florida Red Tide

Red Tide questions and answers

Red tide has not been identified on Hollywood Beach at this time, however due to the positive test results in Palm Beach County, the City is requesting testing from Florida Fish and Wildlife.    

Q. What is red tide?

A. A red tide is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga, plant-like-organisms. In Florida, the species that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis, a naturally occurring toxic algae bloom. At high concentrations, known as a bloom, red tide can turn the water a red, green or brown hue, or the water can remain its normal color.

Q. Public Health Concerns due to Red Tide

A. For most people, it is safe to swim during a red tide, however some people may experience burning eyes and throats, skin irritation, coughing, sneezing, tearing and an itchy throat when red tide is in the water and winds blow its toxic aerosol onshore. Swimming near dead fish is not recommended. Experts advise people with respiratory conditions, including emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma, to avoid red tide areas. Generally, symptoms are temporary and disappear within hours once exposure is discontinued. Most people find air-conditioned facilities decrease symptoms quickly. If you have symptoms, leave the beach and seek air conditioning. Since the red tide toxin is particulate matter when airborne, wearing a particle filter mask lessens effects while on the beach.

Q. What impact does red tide have on sea life and animals?

A. A red tide bloom can affect the central nervous system of fish. Just like people, a red tide can affect pets. Dogs can get sick from the toxins in the air, if they eat a fragment of fish or anything contaminated with the toxin or if they lick their fur after swimming.

Q. Where does red tide usually occur?

A. The organism that causes Florida red tide is found almost exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico. Blooms have been found off the east coast of Florida carried out of the Gulf by the Florida Current and Gulf Stream Current.

Q. How long does red tide usually last?

A. Red tide can last days, weeks, or months and can change daily. The bloom depends on physical and biological conditions such as winds, currents, sunlight, nutrients and salinity.

Q. Is red tide a new phenomenon?

A. No. The first official reporting of red tide in Florida was in 1844.

Q. Is it safe to eat seafood in restaurants during red tide?

A. Yes. Commercial seafood and shellfish found in local restaurants, grocery and seafood stores must be harvested from red tide-free waters.

Q. Can I fish for seafood during red tide?

A. Fishing for shellfish should be avoided. No illness has been reported from eating filleted fish caught during a red tide.

Q. Is it ok to eat shellfish during a red tide?

A. No. If a shellfish harvesting ban is in effect, it is not safe to eat mollusks (clams, oysters and coquinas) and gastropods that feed on bivalves. However, edible parts of other animals commonly called shellfish (crabs, shrimp, lobster) are not affected by the red tide organism and can be eaten. The edible tissue of fish, crab and shrimp does not absorb the toxins so they remain safe to eat, however common sense should be used.

Q. Does cooking destroy the red tide toxin?

A. No.

  • Report a fish kill: Florida Fish and Wildlife 1.800.636.0511.
  • For health related questions, call the Red Tide Hotline 24/7 at 1.888.232.8635.
  • Check current red tide status information by county at

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