A patchy yet persistent red tide bloom that started last fall continues to hang around in Southwest Florida waters. It stretches from Tampa Bay to Sanibel Island.

Levels of the toxic algae increased in water samples collected around Manatee and Sarasota County beaches this week.

Red tide was found at medium concentrations in four samples collected around Anna Maria Island and 12 samples off of Sarasota County, including near Longboat Key, Siesta Key and Casey Key, according to the latest report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

In all, red tide was detected at bloom concentration in 135 samples around Southwest Florida over the past week, up from 114 last week.

Slight respiratory irritation was reported by lifeguards at Coquina Beach and Manatee Public Beach on Thursday.

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County recently reminded beachgoers to be aware of red tide’s presence.

“While current red tide cell counts remain at low to medium levels, some people may have mild and short-lived respiratory symptoms such as eye, nose, and throat irritation like those associated with the common cold or seasonal sinus allergies,” the health department said in an advisory. “Some individuals with existing breathing problems, such as asthma, might experience more severe effects.”

“Health officials recommend that people who are sensitive to red tide or experiencing symptoms avoid the beach or go into an air-conditioned space,” the post continued. “If symptoms do not subside, contact your healthcare provider for evaluation.”

Red tide forecast

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts the respiratory threat from red tide.

On Thursday, NOAA warned of a moderate to high risk of respiratory irritation over the next 36 hours on some beaches in Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Collier and Lee counties.

Irritation is most likely when winds are blowing on or along the shore.

The University of South Florida’s red tide-tracking forecast predicts that bloom levels of red tide will persist around Anna Maria Island and coastal Manatee and Sarasota counties into the weekend. A minimal presence of red tide is forecast for Pinellas County’s coast.

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Levels of red tide algae increased in waters around Anna Maria Island and coastal Sarasota County this week. Tiffany Tompkins [email protected]

This story was originally published February 17, 2023, 11:46 AM.

Ryan Ballogg is a news reporter and features writer at the Bradenton Herald. Since joining the paper in 2018, he has received awards for features, art and environmental writing in the Florida Press Club’s Excellence in Journalism Competition. Ryan is a Florida native and graduated from University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
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