You may have seen news reports, heard from a friend, or have scrolled by it in your social media feeds. Dead fish, turtles, dolphins, and many other local sea creatures wash up on our beaches and collecting in our canals. It is a devastating and unsightly scene here in the central gulf coast these past few weeks. This post, I hope, will shed some light onto this natural event. I am no scientist or marine biologist, however I am a resident and local business owner, very much affected by this red tide event. I heard a lot of different “opinions” about what it is and why it happens however these were often more than not very conflicting explanations. I owed it to myself to find some real truth between political backlash and simply obtuse reasoning.
What is Red Tide? Red tide is an algae that grows several miles off the coast on the ocean floor. When there is a bloom, it can rapidly multiply and rise. Depending on currents, this bloom can reach the surface of the water where is can feed off of 12 different types of nutrients. Completely subject to the currents of the Gulf of Mexico, these blooms can reach the coasts.
When did Red Tide start? Red tide has been around for centuries and the first documented encounters were in the 16th century by Spanish explorers. Their records noted the event as “red water” which killed birds and fish. The first scientific record comes from 1844 and occurred near the Panhandle of the state. In 1947 a red tide event lasting almost a year originating from the panhandle after months of rains spreads south to Tarpon Springs almost killing all of the well-known sponge beds and commercial fishing. In 1954, then longest single red tide event recorded lasted nearly 18 months killing thousands of tons of sea life. Eclipsed by the 1994 event that lasted 24 months. Followed very closely by the 1996 event which killed over 200 manatees stretched from Clearwater to Key West. 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 all spurred red tide events to one degree or another but not always making it to the coasts.
Many believe red tide events are tied to freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee. I strongly believe this is simply fuel for political backlash on the situation there, a completely separate matter. There has yet to be one marine biologist or scientist that I could find to link water releases from lake O and either the creation of red tide or fueling of red tide. From what I have gathered from all different kinds of sources is still that this is a naturally occurring event that has to due with algae forming miles off of the coast, drifting in with currents, and fed by nutrient rich storm water runoff.
The popularity of Siesta Key grew from its beaches however the surrounding areas of Sarasota have also grown and kept pace. We will soon be posting more entries with the myriad of things to do in town. From festivals to things to do, and see, Sarasota is a vibrant city in and of itself. Of course a beach days is still not out of the question as things can quell with changes in winds and currents. Stay up-to-date on daily beach conditions on our Facebook page.