Karenia brevis algae – commonly called “red tide” because its colorful blooms turn coastal water scarlet – is making its grand entrance up and down Florida’s western shoreline, and it’s not pretty. Aside from the smell of death, red tide triggers many negative consequences.
The Tangled Red Web
Sea creatures suffocate and die because the algae bloom chokes off the oxygen in the water. The toxins released by the massive algae population are troublesome for humans, as well.
People are exposed in multiple ways that include eating tainted fish, breathing in the toxins that pollute the air, and in some cases, through skin contact. It’s believed Karenia brevis can cause neurological problems and make health issues worse for those with chronic respiratory ailments like emphysema. Bottom line: You really don’t want to hang out on a beach with red tide.
The algae is primarily spread by ships, storms, currents, and the wind. And despite millions of dollars that have been poured into trying to stem growth, very few – if any – efforts to prevent the algae have paid off. To make matters worse, experts seem unable to predict when and where this toxic phenomenon will next hit.
No Fun in Florida
Those who usually head to the warmer climate of Florida’s trendy Gulf Coast in the winter are staying home as they wait for the red tide to recede. Thus, this major ecosystem malfunction has cost the state of Florida millions both in terms of trying to halt its unwanted appearance and in lost tourism. Last year was historically bad, and the hope was that it would not be as widespread this year – but that optimism appears to be fading as the deadly algae makes its way up the coast, headed for Tampa Bay.
Those who hold to the climate change theory like to claim red tide as a side effect of what they believe to be the warming of the earth, but so far scientists have been unable to make that connection. Karenia brevis appears to be a mystery that marine experts haven’t yet been able to unravel.