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Officials: Red tide dissipating in Gulf waters

By Staff | Dec 12, 2019

The next time you feel the wind knock your hat back or bring in a cool breeze, you may want to say thank you. That’s because the wind is most likely responsible for breaking up the red tide outbreak that gathered last month in high concentrations off Fort Myers Beach, experts say.

In recent weeks, red tide has receded from high concentrations to non-existent and low levels according to daily samples from the beach provided to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

In addition, a Dec. 2 reading of the Caloosahatchee River at Matanzas Pass in Estero Bay, reported red tide concentrations to be very low. At Lynn Hall Memorial Park, red tide was reported to be low.

At Sanibel, researchers reported that red tide was not present after a month of high-level concentrations on the beach. Rick Barleston, a research scientist with Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, said the numbers reported last week “were way down” from the high concentrations found last month.

“We had our red tide count to zero at our two beaches,” Bartleston said. “There (are) still probably some patches,” he said. He cautioned that birds can still be eating fish contaminated by red tide.

At Fort Myers Beach, there have been no reported fish kills reported in the past month. On Dec. 4, a cormorant found on the beach at Lynn Hall Memorial Park was taken in by Lee County Parks and Recreation rangers after it displayed symptoms associated with red tide poisoning. The rangers said those symptoms were akin to somebody appearing to be walking like they were intoxicated. According to the rangers, there was an 80 percent likelihood the bird would recover.

The cormorant was transported to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel Island. He was treated with medication to help his gastrointestinal tract and given fluids to help his brain and kidney process toxins, said CROW public relations manager Brian Bohlman.

Michelle Kerr, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the decrease in red tide levels is “a good sign.” Red tide blooms typically start in the fall, she said, and their concentrations “are very much dependent on wind and current patterns. There could have been an increased wind that caused the red tide to break up. I’m speaking figuratively,” Kerr said.

“Red tide can survive a variety of water temperatures. Though we are getting into winter, that doesn’t necessarily have a direct impact (in the red tide dissipating),” Kerr said. Water temperatures don’t effect the strength of red tide, she said.

“In our samples, it looks like the red tide is dying but there are still toxins in the water,” Bartleston said.

“The wind helped us out.”