Red Tide

The Red Tide is not something new to the Gulf Coast region of Florida. This problem does not seem to be the result of human activity such as pollution. And, it is not just a regional anomaly as there are many versions of this problem found along the coastlines of other countries around the world.

We have friends who ask us about this phenomenon and how it has affected our life in the Englewood area. Quite frankly, it has not really been a bother to us. However, we know people who have changed their vacation plans to avoid being on the Gulf Coast during the peak Red Tide season.

Origins of this Phenomena

The Florida Red Tide has its origins in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico. Its growth depends upon all the right conditions occurring at the same time.

drawing fish

This phenomenon is created by the massive accumulation of single celled algae known as Karenia brevis. This large accumulation is called a “bloom”.

When the algae die a toxic gas is emitted into both the air and water. The resulting “bloom”, follows the air and water currents towards the Gulf Coast of Florida.

The name “Red Tide” is probably the result of the brownish red sheen that appears on the surface of the water created by the vast numbers of the algae. This sheen can also appear yellow-green in hue, or it may also, at times, be invisible to the eye. The size of the “bloom” can cover a few feet of the ocean surface or it can spread to massive proportions spreading over several miles of the surface of the water.

The “bloom” follows the ocean and air currents. This means that the bloom in the Gulf follows a path that targets the Gulf Coast of Florida, from the Tampa Bay region southward.

As the “bloom” rides the currents it inflicts a lethal dose of toxins on fish, reptiles and marine mammals. The impact of the noxious smell is intensified by the fact that the bodies of the creatures that are killed, wash up on the shore creating a rotting mass of dead creatures along the shoreline.

Although it is not considered lethal to humans, there can be some impact on our health. People suffering from respiratory ailments should avoid coming in contact with the fumes. However, even then it is not considered to have a long-term impact. Many experts suggest that the symptoms will disappear after a few days away from the shoreline.


If you are in the Gulf Coast region of Florida during an outbreak, many local newspapers and other media provide updates and alerts about the regions that are being impacted.

A strong wind or, ironically, a series of bad storms such as hurricanes can help to dissipate the “bloom” and render it ineffective. This may be why some years the Red Tide has more of an effect on the Englewood beaches than in other years. After all, it seems that some years it is hardly noticeable and in other years it lasts for weeks at a time.

History of this Event

This is not a recent phenomenon. Human activity such as pollution can not be blamed for the onset of this event. There are records suggesting that it has existed for centuries.

Difference Between Red Tide and Red Seaweed (Red Drift)

Although Red Seaweed has a noxious smell like the refuge from the red tide, fortunately these two marine nuisances are largely different. But, there may be a connection.

First of all, although the red seaweed emits an awful smell when it is rotting on the beach, it does not seem to have a lethal impact on marine life. However, you should be aware that swimming amongst this floating mass can cause a rash for some people.

However, some experts believe that the intense RedTide season in 2005 may have an indirect impact on the Red Seaweed or Red Drift as it is sometimes called.

That year the Tide killed vast numbers of fish and other aquatic life. As the dead creatures sank to the bottom of the sea, it started to decay. This created a mass of nutrients that promoted the growth of sediment along the shoreline. These conditions have led to the increased growth of the red seaweed.

What is Safe and What is Not Safe?

If you are concerned about eating seafood from the area or the impact on air and water quality, it is always wise to check with the experts. Local conservation groups and government offices are the best source of information.

The Red Tide or Red Seaweed might limit your visits to the beach for a few days and cause you to change your eating habits for a similar period of time, but the overall impact does not seem to be more than an irritant. Remember the experts can provide the best information.

Go ahead and Enjoy Englewood Florida!

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