ST. GEORGE ISLAND — Red tide blooms surfaced last month around St. George Island in nearby Franklin County.
Several reports of fish kill and respiratory struggles solidified the disruptive algae bloom’s arrival.
Blooming normally starts late summer or fall, but close tracking for the current bloom started December 2020.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides multiple status and map report updates daily. FWC utilizes several techniques to track harmful blooms annually.
Kate Hubbard, lead research scientist at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, monitors the emergence of red tide in the Panhandle area.
“It’s looking better but we still are noticing some traces along the east and west of Franklin County. We use satellites in addition to collecting water samples to ensure we’re closely monitoring bloom, from the least to the most impacted areas,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard also directs FWC’s Center for Red Tide Research, placing her on the frontline of monitoring and research efforts.
The Florida Department of Health and FWC work closely to provide information about the potential health impacts that may arise when you’re in an area with harmful blooms present.
Local residents of St. George Island shared their encounters with the bloom and the impacts on the local and surrounding communities.
Paddy’s Raw Bar, just two minutes away from St. George Island beach, attracts many visitors and locals as a place of refuge, as the bloom matriculated last month.
“When it first arrived, we were busier than expected because of our location. We aren’t far from the beach but we aren’t directly on it. The direction of the wind blowed away from us, so your eyes and throat aren’t affected as much here,” said one of the managers at Paddy’s Raw bar, Jay Giokerson.
Toxins are airspeed, causing cells to break wave action onshore and increase offshore. Strong winds and currents can cause the bloom to move around, causing an influx of respiratory irritation, acute smells and fish kill.
Shellfish, marine mammals, turtles and birds are in serious danger when red tide arrives on beaches. If someone consumes shellfish contaminated by toxic algae blooms, they’re in jeopardy of contracting neurotoxic shellfish poisoning which isn’t fatal for humans but is extremely fatal to sea life.
St. George Island residents haven’t seen a crucial blooming case like this in about 11 or 12 years.
“It’s not that bad if wind isn’t coming over water, but when the strong wind blows in your direction, you’re gonna get that tickle to your throat. It didn’t affect me as much but I know this is something that impacts the community greatly in various ways,” said Jackie Langford, a Franklin County resident.
When necessary, proper red tide protocol is to enforce the closing of commercial and recreational harvest shellfish areas to ensure a safe seafood markets.
Stay updated with FWC’s messaging on www.myfwc.com and their facebook. You can also sign up for text messaging twice a week during blooms.
There’s also a fish kill reporting system, hotline and app that you’re allowed to submit pictures and information through to assist the FWC’s Red Tide safety initiatives.