Around this time last year, a pesky bout of red tide irritated Manatee County’s shores.
Typically, red tide season is from late summer to early fall.
But as recent as this past weekend, red tide was apparent up and down Anna Maria Island.
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If the rough winds on Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach Saturday didn’t faze beachgoers, the coughing, itchy eyes and dead fish sprinkled on the shore could have done the trick.
The lifeguard stand at Holmes Beach acknowledged that, yes, there was red tide at the beach, but it wasn’t in large enough amounts to be harmful. The sound of throat-clearing peppered the beach, but the wind’s roar drowned out most of the noise.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s most recent red tide status, red tide was found in background to medium concentrations in 20 samples collected along Manatee’s shores.
The red tide phytoplankton is naturally occurring in the ocean. It only becomes a problem when it bunches in big amounts and toxins are released from its cells. And those toxins spell trouble for humans and, often with more serious consequences, marine life.
University of South Florida physical oceanography professor Robert Weisberg told the Bradenton Herald in December that the red tide season that had extended from 2015, coupled with Hurricane Hermine’s drenching rains last summer, could have had a say on why the 2016 season was so brutal.
Although the presence of red tide early in the year looks like a repeat of 2016, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute spokeswoman Michelle Kerr said red tide can only really be predicted at most a week ahead of time.
“Blooms are patchy in nature and the impacts can vary by location and they can even vary throughout the day,” Kerr said.
So many factors play into what conditions will be perfect for red tide. Wind and water currents as well as surface conditions and nearby concentrations need to be taken into consideration.
“It’s pretty much a wait-and-see situation,” Kerr said.
In other words, it’s all in the motion of the ocean.