Toxic Red Tide Spreads to Miami, Closes Beaches

Oct 4, 2018

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On Thursday, Miami-Dade and Broward counties confirmed the presence of toxic algae blooms known as the red tide, which have been creeping along the Sunshine State’s east coast. This red tide may be one of the most severe in recent memory.

Though it’s not uncommon in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s rare to see red tide this far east.

Nicole Sharp, natural resources administrator at the Broward County Environmental Planning and Community Resilience Division, told the local New Times Broward-Palm Beach that only nine of 57 Gulf of Mexico algae blooms have traveled to Florida’s east coast since the division began keeping records.

Red tide has even been reported as far northeast as St. Lucie County, though contamination levels remain low. According to Sharp, the red algae blooms were carried east from the Gulf of Mexico, rather than occurring independently.

As a result of the new tests, double flags are flying over a handful of northern Miami beaches to indicate closures, including Haulover Beach. Also on Thursday, Palm Beach closed all county-managed beaches after receiving reports of eye and throat irritation, according to Weather.com.

The toxic chemicals produced by the red tide algae, Karenia brevis, have caused massive fish kills this year. More than 100 manatee deaths may be linked to brevetoxins from this red tide, and conservationists are especially concerned about the algae’s effects on sea turtle populations (hatching season runs through the end of October).

In addition to harming endangered marine life in Florida, the red tide can be harmful to humans, too. Beachgoers can experience coughing, sneezing, itching eyes and burning throats. The toxins are especially dangerous for people with serious respiratory conditions.

Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning, which can cause vomiting, nausea and neurological symptoms like slurred speech, has also linked to the consumption of seafood contaminated by red tide toxins.

Travelers planning to spend the fall or winter on a pristine stretch of Florida beach (or attending Art Basel Miami) should pay close attention to local reports this year, as the red tide continues to litter the shoreline with dead fish and fill the air with dangerous toxins.

Feature photo by Joe Cavaretta / South Florida Sun Sentinel / TNS.

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