Safety precautions, status of public beaches, resources

What is red tide?

A red tide is a harmful algae bloom caused by a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic algae. In saltwater marine environments along Florida’s west coast and elsewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, the species that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis, often abbreviated as K. brevis.

The naturally-occurring phenomenon has been documented in the southern Gulf of Mexico as far back as the 1700s, and along Florida's Gulf coast in the 1840s.

As red tide blooms approach coastal areas, breaking waves can cause the toxins to mix with airborne sea spray. People in coastal areas can experience varying degrees of eye, nose, and throat irritation. When a person leaves an area with red tide, symptoms usually go away.

People with severe or chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic lung disease are cautioned to avoid areas with active red tides.

Safety precautions

The Florida Department of Health recommends the following precautions:

  • When possible, stay away from water bodies and beaches where red tide or fish killed by the toxic algae is present
  • Don't touch or swim near dead fish
  • Wear shoes to prevent injuries from stepping on fish carcasses
  • Keep pets away from water, sea spray, and dead fish affected by red tide
  • Don't harvest or eat shellfish from an affected area
  • People with chronic respiratory problems should avoid a red tide area
  • If breathing difficulties do not subside after leaving a red tide area or going indoors, contact your health care provider

Hillsborough County actions

Hillsborough County is actively monitoring County beaches and nature preserves adjacent to Tampa Bay for any red tide impacts and is prepared to coordinate with other public agencies to respond as appropriate. The County has deployed the Rapid Response team and Marine Safety Unit to collect dead fish in areas where they are accumulating most. Those efforts are ongoing; about 4,500 pounds of dead fish have been collected so far.

The County also is exploring the feasibility of having a contracted vendor remove dead fish from waterways and along the coastline before the fish wash ashore. This task is extremely difficult due to tides, weather, and water conditions, as well as fish in rocks and mangroves located on private property.

If there are dead fish on your private property that you wish to dispose of immediately, it is advised that you double-bag the carcasses using gloves and wearing a mask, and put in your gray garbage cart, which will continue to be collected twice a week.

Collected dead fish that have been double-bagged can also be taken to the following location:

Status of public beaches in unincorporated Hillsborough County

Resources for residents and visitors

Report fish and wildlife impact

  • Call the Florida FWC Commission at  800-636-0511 (toll-free) to report fish kills, diseased fish, or fish with other abnormalities, or submit a report online.
  • FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline: Call   888-404-3922 (toll-free) if you find a dead, sick, or injured manatee or sea turtle.
Last Modified: 12/21/2023, 12:27:19 PM

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