Largest red tide bloom seen off Florida since 2006

Thousands of fish in the Gulf of Mexico have died due to the largest and the worst red tide bloom seen off Florida since 2006. Researchers raise concerns that there may be much greater threat if it washes ashore as expected in the next two weeks.

"It has been killing a lot of marine species, especially fish, as it waits offshore. It could have large impacts if it were to move inshore", said Brandon Basino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Red tide occurs when naturally occurring algae bloom goes out of control thereby producing toxins that are fatal for fish as well as other marine creatures. For humans these toxin chemicals can cause respiratory distress in people, such as coughing and wheezing and may lead to a lot of discomfort.

This red tide algae boom measures approximately 80 miles long by 50 miles wide and stretches from the curve of the Panhandle to the central Tampa Bay region. There have been reports of death of thousands of fish including snapper, flounder, crabs, bull sharks, eel and octopus.

The extensive rise in the number of dead fish and considering the scale of the bloom this year, researchers are looking into the effects of the bloom on beach tourism and commercial fishing.

Officials from the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission have stated that a three-day research cruise to the red tide bloom off Hernando, Pasco and Pinellas counties was done and it showed that the algae bloom is growing and still moving slowly south-southeast. Further findings have shown that the bloom has grown to about 90 miles long, which is almost 10 miles longer than what it was a week ago.

Brandon Basino