Map healthy beaches to avoid red tide

Scientists collect, analyze data and information on beach conditions and red tide levels is uploaded to visitbeaches.org and its mobile app.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — The weekend has arrived and people have made plans that include hitting the beach.

However, the red tide has worsened at some of our popular beach spots. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, red tide is a common name for Karenia brevisa harmful algal bloom that kills marine life when it occurs.

Some people are already feeling the respiratory effects and itchy eyes and a few have ended up in the ER with more serious side effects. This made it difficult for visitors to know where to go to avoid beaches affected by the red tide.

But there’s an ongoing team effort through science and technology to try to help beachgoers plan better.

RELATED: National Weather Service issues beach hazard statement regarding red tide issues

Researchers from the Mote Marine Lab, Florida Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Health hope that making up-to-date beach water conditions accessible on mobile technology would make a difference.

Along with their collection of standard samples to check bacteria levels, environmental scientists from the health department collected samples to check red tide cell counts.

“I took a few samples, one we support to test for bacteria and another sample for Mote Marine,” Ricky Montedonico said.

Montedonico is based in Sarasota and is part of the team that audits the county’s 16 beaches. After wading in the ocean and collecting water samples, he puts iodine in the small bottles and stores them in a cooler of ice.

“It’s iodine, I think that makes it easier for Mote Marine to determine the amount of red tide in there,” Montedonico said.

The samples are then hand-delivered to Mote Marine Lab biologists who check for red tide toxins, which is causing all the trouble.

The data is then analyzed and the required information is uploaded to the Mote website visitbeaches.org and its mobile application.

“It provides red tide cell counts to citizens so they are aware of conditions on the beach and for tourists coming to Florida,” said Devin Burris, a biologist at the Mote Marine Lab.

Officials say samples from “healthy beaches” are often the first time they are able to see when there are high numbers of red tide cells in waters in our area.

“Monitoring, in general, is important for us to understand when blooms are happening. Part of the concern is early warning so we know when blooms might start,” said Dr. Vincent Lovko, lead scientist at Mote Marine.

Florida Fish and Wildlife also depends on the samples for its daily and weekly red tide reports.

“It can be very patchy and just because it exists in one area doesn’t mean it exists in all areas, even in a small area of ​​our coast,” Lovko said.

In the long term, scientists hope that all the data collected will eventually help find solutions to the red tide problem.

Beach visitors can also check red tide conditions in their area by texting the word “tide” to 727-577-8522.

10 Tampa Bay will send a link to your phone that will take you to a list of tools for checking flowers at your local beach.

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