Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Red Tide Brings Dead Fish to Siesta's Shores

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Red Tide Brings Dead Fish to Siesta's Shores

Article excerpt

ICKY ALGAE: Bloom's effect is seen as far north as the tip of Anna Maria Island

Countless dead fish washed ashore Thursday morning on Southwest Florida shorelines, including Siesta Public Beach, as a red tide bloom moved northward, causing respiratory problems for beachgoers and an eyesore for tourists vital to the region's economy.

The greatest concentrations of red tide were reported as far north as Lido Key down through Siesta Key, including Turtle Beach at Midnight Pass Road south to Blind Pass Beach. Fish kills and respiratory difficulties have also been reported north of Lido, on Holmes Beach and as far north as the tip of Anna Maria Island.

The bloom and its toxins are expected to linger offshore for about a day and then return south as winds shift, blowing from the north, said Jason Lenes, a researcher with the Center for Prediction of Red Tide at the University of South Florida.

"The bloom has the potential to leave the area but could linger," Lenes said, adding that the bloom could be sustained if algae near the ocean bottom rise to replace departing algae near the surface.

By Saturday or Sunday, the bloom is expected to move southward along the shores in south Sarasota and Charlotte counties, Lenes added, and then possibly move west into the Gulf.

Windy weather is forecast to continue today, creating high surf conditions on the beach. Forecasters expect breezy conditions to continue through Saturday, with gusts exceeding 20 mph.

Florida red tide blooms are caused by single-cell algae called Karenia brevis. The algae occur naturally at very low levels, usually about 30 miles offshore. Typically during the fall, ocean currents move the red tide to the coast. If conditions are right, the cells proliferate into a toxic bloom.

The last major bloom here ended in January 2007, after nearly six months. Prior to that an enormous bloom that began in January 2005 lingered for 13 months before dying off in February 2006.

Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota, said noxious air and fish-littered beaches are problematic for the region's tourism- based economy, but not devastating because many visitors book extended trips ahead of time. …

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