What You Need To Know About Red Tide in Florida

By Alycia Downs

Oct 08, 2018

Red tide is an algae bloom that occurs in Florida every year. Learn what causes red tide in Florida and other red tide facts.

Nearly every summer in Florida, an algae bloom known as red tide shows up in the waters of the Gulf Coast. Normally, these blooms last a few weeks but, on occasion, can last for months, creating problems for marine life, humans and businesses.

What causes red tide in Florida?

Red tide is a naturally-occurring phenomenon that originates in the Gulf of Mexico when a microscopic algae called Karenia brevis begins to accumulate and grow rapidly. This process begins when storms and current upwell nutrients from the bottom of the Gulf to the surface. Current then carries the red tide organisms inshore where they’re fueled to harmful levels by warm water and other nutrients such as polluted stormwater runoff and septic tank leakage.

Is red tide harmful?

With the right conditions, red tide algae spreads, releasing toxins that kill marine life and can cause health problems for humans. Red tide blooms are often characterized by vast amounts of dead fish floating on the surface and washing up along the shores. When humans are exposed to airborne red tide toxins, they experience irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and symptoms such as coughing or wheezing. People with respiratory problems are advised to avoid red tide, but it is smart for everyone to consult their physician in order to take proper precautions. It’s also advised not to swim in waters where dead fish are present.


When will red tide go away?

The proper conditions will help alleviate red tide blooms, but there is no way to predict how long it could take. Wind and current can carry the bloom offshore, cold temperatures can kill the organisms or red tide can naturally dissipate if it lacks the nutrients needed to grow.

What can you do to help?

Currently, there is significant research being done on ways to mitigate and control red tide blooms in the future. Residents can help by reducing the chemicals used in their yards and reporting dead marine species to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Non-residents are encouraged to visit the Sunshine State and support local businesses, even by shopping online. Florida businesses rely on visitors every year and, when red tide keeps visitors away, everyone is adversely impacted—restaurants, fishing guides, shops, hotels.

Florida is still the best place in the U.S. for fun in the sun. Get your Florida fishing license and start planning your next family fishing adventure.

Alycia Downs
Alycia Downs
Alycia Downs is a freelance content creator and avid sportsman who contributes to numerous publications promoting tourism, fishing, and outdoors. Alycia is a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and is actively involved with conservation and fishing non-profit organizations. Visit her personal blog at tideandtale.com or on Instagram @tideandtale.