Tag Archives: Wildlife

Red tide threatens, tracking hindered by government shutdown

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A cell of Karenia brevis, the species responsible for red tide. Islander Photo: Courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory

The coming and going of red tide remains as much a mystery as Mother Nature.

No solutions have been found.

But the cause of people coughing and complaining of scratchy throats on the beaches of Anna Maria Island Jan. 4- 5 was no mystery — red tide was back.

“It’s the cough again,” Maria Steffens said by phone Jan. 5.

Steffens is night manager at the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at the Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

“The other day I noticed that smell. Now there is no smell, only the dry, hacking cough again. I’ve been coughing since I got to work at 2 p.m.,” Steffens said. “I noticed it yesterday afternoon.”

Tiffany LaRocca reported similar conditions in Bradenton Beach at the Beach House Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N.

“It’s the itchy throat and the cough,” she told The Islander Jan. 5. “We enclosed the outside seating. At least there is no smell.”

Neither location reported seeing dead fish on the beach.

The federal government shutdown that began Dec. 22, 2018, cut off access to the University of South Florida’s topical oceanography lab, which provides data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

So researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory and other government agencies as of Jan. 7 were relying on first-hand observations and samples to determine red tide’s presence and make forecasts about the harmful algae bloom.

According to Mote, a boat captain reported coming across a dense patch of phytoplankton, took a sample and brought it to the Sarasota lab Jan 2.

The sample, found about 2 and l/2 miles off the Sarasota County coastline, contained high concentrations of Karenia brevis.

Meanwhile, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission concentration readings, which the previous week had been clear for Sarasota County, showed high concentrations of K. brevis near Siesta and Lido Keys.

FWC readings in Manatee County remained clear, with no red tide detected in daily samples or in the Jan. 2 midweek report.

Samples showed no K. brevis at Longboat Pass in Bradenton Beach, the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria or the Palma Sola Bay Bridge on Manatee Avenue in Bradenton.

Mote’s daily reports on beach conditions showed no signs of red tide Jan. 4 at Coquina Beach or at Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach.

A late December storm, that brought 10-foot waves to the Southwest Florida coastline, apparently broke up part of the K. brevis bloom and swept some of the toxic algae far offshore.

Now, however, it appears red tide is creeping back to the coastline.

Coyote strolls Marina Drive

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A coyote saunters along Marina Drive near Key Royale Drive in Holmes Beach Dec. 30, 2018. Coyotes usually are active at night, but daytime sightings on the island have become more common since summer 2018. Rick Scherrer of Anna Maria spotted the coyote while on an afternoon bike ride. “We ride our bikes a lot and were really surprised to see that coyote just standing in the driveway in broad daylight,” Scherrer wrote Jan. 2 in an email to The Islander. “We have spotted him up at our end, but only late at night. He/she is mighty bold!” Islander Photo: Courtesy Rick Scherrer

Red tide not reported in Manatee

No concentrations of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, were observed in Manatee County in the week ending Jan. 6.

K. brevis was observed at background to high concentrations inshore and offshore of Sarasota County and at background concentrations in Lee County.

No fish kills related to red tide were reported.

However, respiratory irritation was reported in Manatee County.

For more information, go online to myfwc.com/redtidestatus.

Red tide makes an exit from area waters for 2019

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People crowd the Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, Dec. 25. Continued clearing of red tide showed Dec. 26 during Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission testing along the Southwest Florida coastline.

The red tide bloom of 2018 appears to have dissipated along the Southwest Florida coastline, just in time to ring in 2019.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission readings for Dec. 26, 2018, showed no presence of Karenia brevis, the algae known as red tide. The final remaining hot spot along the coastline had been a pesky concentration of red tide in Palma Sola Bay, which was not present in the Dec. 26 testing.

Likewise, the Dec. 27 Mote Marine Laboratory Beach Conditions reports showed clear conditions at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

Dr. Tracy Fanara, staff scientist and program manager for Mote’s environmental health department, said in phone call Dec. 27 that caution should be used in declaring the red tide event over.

“Though cell counts have definitely decreased, the bloom is not entirely dissipated. We still received one report of respiratory irritation in Manatee County and one in Collier County this week,” she said, referring to the week ending Dec. 30.

Fanara said patchy red tide blooms remain offshore, and Mote was awaiting new satellite images to assess the size in the week ending Dec. 30.

That holiday week, visitors packed the Manatee Public Beach at 4000 Gulf Drive.

Occupancy surged at local lodgings — a change from the lackluster months of fall, when red tide conditions kept travelers away.

Bookings also continued to improve for 2019.

Barbara Baker, general manager of Anna Maria Island Resorts, described “very good” bookings for February and March, with January visitors gaining in numbers daily Tortuga Beach Resort, Tropic Isle Beach Resort, Tradewinds Beach Resort and Seaside Beach Resort in Bradenton Beach.

“We are continually seeing last-minute bookings,” she said Dec. 27, 2018.

When red tide rolled into Anna Maria Island Aug. 3, no one predicted the length of time or the impact on islanders’ lives the microscopic algae would bring.

Islanders moved from cleaning up masses of dead sea life to steering clear of the beaches. Business owners and rental agencies were trying to find a way forward on a destination island with few guests on the horizon.

They watched as sea turtles, dolphins and manatees perished and local business struggled to maintain through the long down time.

But 2019, brings a new year and indications, this round of red tide may finally have diminished.

In August 2018, Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, warned, “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

Perhaps, islanders have arrived at the finish line.

Red tide persists

The red tide organism, Karenia brevis, persisted the week ending Dec. 30 in Southwest Florida but conditions continued to improve in most areas.

In Southwest Florida, K. brevis was observed at very low to high concentrations in Manatee County, background to very low concentrations in Sarasota County, very low concentrations in Charlotte County, background to very low concentrations in and offshore of Lee County, background concentrations in and offshore of Collier County, and very low concentrations offshore of Monroe County.

Fish kills were not reported.

However, respiratory irritation was reported in Manatee, Sarasota, Lee, and Collier counties.

For more information, go online to myfwc.com/redtidestatus.