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Red tide is weaker, but still hanging around Anna Maria Island. Is the worst behind us?

Red tide is weaker - but still maintains its grip - on Anna Maria Island beaches in Manatee County as the algae bloom pushes northward, now impacting Pinellas County, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Red tide is weaker - but still maintains its grip - on Anna Maria Island beaches in Manatee County as the algae bloom pushes northward, now impacting Pinellas County, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. rcallihan@bradenton.com

After more than a month on Anna Maria Island shores, red tide continues to have a loose hold over Manatee County.

Since arriving in the beginning of August, the incessant algae bloom, known as Karenia brevis, has dirtied the water, left thousands of rotting dead fish on shorelines and brought an awful smell to the air that makes everyone cough.

At one point, it got so bad that the carnage made its way into canals and creeks.

But in the past several days, it has started to seem as if the worst may be behind us.

Tropical Storm Gordon may have helped push red tide conditions away from Manatee County beaches after Labor Day, researchers say, but a shift in wind direction can bring it all back onto local shores soon.

Manatee beaches were reported to have medium to very low levels of the algae, according to Wednesday’s red tide report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The numbers followed a similar report from the previous week.

Manatee County contracted with a company to help clean up red tide stricken canals. They started in creeks and canals in the southern part of the county, which feed into Sarasota Bay.

While the bloom appears to be weaker locally, it still extends from Pinellas County to northern Collier County along 120 miles of coastline, the FWC says.

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This past week, red tide made its full-blown debut on Pinellas beaches, where local outlets are reporting tons of dead fish washing up along the shore. The bloom was observed at background to medium concentrations levels in and offshore of Pinellas County.

“Persistent surface currents — prior to, during and after the passage of Tropical Storm Gordon — likely played a role in transporting cells of K. brevis to the northwest,” the FWC report says.

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The USF-FWC collaboration for prediction of red tides predicts northwestern movement of surface waters for most areas and “net southeastern transport of subsurface waters over the next three days.”

A change from northwestern to southeastern is predicted to occur toward the end of this period, which could spell trouble for Manatee County.


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Beachgoers interested in monitoring specific conditions at various southwest Florida beaches can visit Mote Marine Laboratory’s beach conditions reporting system. On Wednesday, the system showed some dead fish and moderate respiratory irritation at Manatee Beach, and only slight respiratory irritation at Coquina Beach.

Rampant red tide has been bringing heaps of dead fish into downtown Sarasota waterways and marinas, prompting hotels and other businesses to contract cleanup help.

Follow Samantha Putterman on Twitter @samputterman
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