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Beach crowds light on Wednesday. But it’s not because of red tide

Very low levels of red tide detected at Coquina South boat ramp

Very low amounts of Karenia brevis, the algae that causes red tide, were detected off of the South Coquina Beach boat ramp in a water sample taken Monday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
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Very low amounts of Karenia brevis, the algae that causes red tide, were detected off of the South Coquina Beach boat ramp in a water sample taken Monday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Crowds were light on Anna Maria Island beaches on Wednesday, but it wasn’t a fear of red tide keeping people away.

Very low amounts of Karenia brevis, the algae that causes red tide, were detected off of the South Coquina Beach boat ramp in a water sample taken Monday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Monday. It is one of several spots along Florida’s west coast where Karenia brevis has been detected this month, after only a few months since last year’s devastating red tide cleared out.

Local beaches typically see lighter crowds in May ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s the lull between the end of the tourist and seasonal resident season and the start of summer with kids out of school.

It’s unknown whether the small patches of Karenia brevis indicate that another red tide is blooming, since scientists still don’t know what triggers a red tide.

For now the FWC’s Research Institute said it will continue to monitor conditions and monitor ocean conditions with their partners at the University at South Florida, according spokeswoman Kelly Richmond. As of Wednesday morning, minimal movement of surface waters was forecast for the next four and half days.

“Conditions can always change rapidly, but this is not the time when we typically see blooms start to form,” Richmond said.

Dr. Vince Lovko talks about how Mote tests water for Karenia brevis, or the red tide phytoplankton.

Nick Chioffe was fishing off of the seawall on the bayside of South Coquina Beach in the waters of Longboat Pass while his girlfriend, Barb Allen, sat nearby.

“We live with it,” Chioffe said.

He was aware of the latest detection of Karenia brevis earlier this week, he said. The Bradenton couple said they stay away when the red tide hits hard like it did last year.

“It use to be ever three or four years, but now it’s every summer,” Chioffe said. “It’s concerning.”

Allen, who has lived in the area since 1974, has seen the red tide at its worse on Siesta Key and Anna Maria Island.

“When the red tide is so bad like that, you can’t go. Maybe some of the tourists go but I wouldn’t be out here and I think everybody that lives out here knows the damage,” Allen said. “In some way, it’s part of nature, but I think it’s something we can solve so we’re not having this every summer.”

But Allen is concerned because it’s not summer yet.

While she is optimistic about Gov. Ron DeSantis’s efforts to combat the problem, in general she said she is concerned about the lack of action.

“We’re trying to figure out why politicians aren’t making it more of a priority,” Allen said. “I think they’ve come along with some research, like Lake Okeechobee, but things like this, I think politicians really ought to make it a priority in Florida.”

But while DeSantis included millions in his budget to fund research to combat red tide and toxic blue-green algae, the Florida Legislature failed to pass several bills that would have better regulated water quality in the state.

According to Mote Marine Laboratory’s beach condition’s report on Wednesday morning, there was thick algae drift in the water and on the beach at Manatee Public Beach. The water was reported to be clear in color. Further south on Coquina Beach, there was no algae drift reported but the water was reported to be moderately dark.

All the recent findings of red tide and blue-green algae near Anna Maria Island have been on the bayside of the island, not in the Gulf of Mexico, where the beach conditions are reported from.

There have not been any reports of respiratory irritation or fish kills as a result of either algae.

Meanwhile, as it continues to monitor for red tide, FWC is also working closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection after a potentially toxic blue-green algae was found in water off the bayside of Anna Maria and in Palma Sola and Sarasota bays.

According to the DEP, there is a type of blue-green algae causing a stink in some waterways.

A Mirinda Hill was dismayed to see and smell potentially toxic blue-green algae in Sarasota Bay behind her home on the weekend of May 11.

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