As red tide alerts are lifted at beaches from Boca Grande Pass down to Bonita Beach Park, one alert remains active along Lighthouse Beach Park on Sanibel.
Just like the wind and waves wash away sand and shells on our beaches, they can wash away red tide too.
“We’ve had these cold fronts with north winds, what that does is pushes water south one, the surface layer would go south, but it also pushes water away from shore here. And when we push water away from shore, then water comes from underneath to replace it. Sometimes one cold front can get rid of red tide,” said Dr. Rick Bartleson, a research scientist with the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation marine lab.
Bartleson says it doesn’t always happen that way, but the relentless blooms appear to be calming down.
“After Ian, there were immediately after there were low numbers around Sanibel, but then they started coming up. And we had as high as 6 million cells per liter in Tarpon Bay one day last week. But then they started going down by the end of the week,” said Bartleson.
Anything over 1 million cells per liter of karenis brevis is considered a high concentration and would appear as a red dot on a red tide map.
That’s what a sample from Lighthouse Beach Park on Wednesday showed.
As quickly as they form, the red tide patches can break down and wash away.
“Friday, our beach samples had had no karenia in them. On Saturday, our samples off the shore and area all around Sanibel were pretty close to zero,” said Bartleson.
On Monday, Bartelson tested again.
“So this sample looks pretty clean of red tide,” Bartleson said.
Even when a bloom isn’t present, Dr. Robin Bast, with the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, says we can still see its impact in animals.
“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of seabirds. So we have about eight to 10. Cormorants that have come in over the last two weeks with symptoms consistent with red tide poisoning,” said Bast. “So typically, people will see them stranded on the beach, either unable to fly away or unable to get up and stand and walk away from them.”
The birds could pick up the toxin offshore or in the food chain. If you come across a bird that you believe has red tide poisoning, don’t pick it up. You should call a local rescue group, like CROW, which will treat them for symptoms of toxicity.
You can find more information about CROW and the different ways you can contact them by clicking here.