Red tide algae plague Florida beaches, killing fish and driving away tourists

Red tide algae plague Florida beaches, killing fish and driving away tourists

The sparkling white sand of Florida's southwestern beaches aren't dotted with sunbathers this week.

Officials say almost 400 sea turtles have died because of the toxic bloom.

Red tide is the name given to the blooms of a species of microorganisms that have a distinct red colour.

FWC marine turtle biologist Robbin Trindell says the increased number is due, in part, to the red tide affecting numerous beaches where the turtles nest during the summer time.

It is believed a combination of coastal pollution and nutrient-laden water being flushed into the warm waters of the gulf from Lake Okeechobee have caused the particularly severe red tide. It's toxic, too: Reports of red tide first were reported in November 2017, and at least 400 stranded and dead sea turtles have been pulled from Lee, Collier, Charlotte and Sarasota county waters since, according to the Naples News-Press.

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"This whale shark was definitely exposed to the bloom, and we know brevetoxins (are deadly)", spokeswoman Kelly Richmond of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission told the Washington Post. The toxin affects marine life and causes respiratory irritation in humans and animals.

The latest red tide report from the FWC shows high concentrations along the southwest Florida coast.

- As dead fish and marine animals continue to pile up on the shores of Southwest Florida beaches, Florida Fish and Wildlife officials are asking for help reporting dead and sick animal sightings.

But the bloom is not only unsafe to marine animals. Red tides, on the other hand, produce toxins that can harm or kill sea life.

More than a dozen people have gone to the emergency room after exposure to the blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria.

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