Red Tide: What Killed The Fishes In Florida Beaches?

First Posted: Sep 28, 2016 05:29 AM EDT

The annual red tide in the Gulf of Mexico has already started killing thousands of fish and had been driving away beach tourists. Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that there have already been "naturally occurring" red tide algae blooms in three different counties in the west coast.

Due to the massive number of fish killed during the phenomenon, tourists are staying away from beaches, with one telling Fox13, "We come out here, the fish are dead and it stinks like heck. I can't take that smell."

But what causes these red tides? As the National Ocean Service explained, Florida's red tide is caused by a microorganism called Karenia brevis, which in large concentrations make toxins that are poisonous to shellfish, thus making it hard for them to breathe. These microorganisms, are yes, also red.

The toxicity of the red tide can also affect beachgoers with respiratory issues or sensitive noses. The main risks that the red tide is associated with humans, however, are throat and eye problems. However fish, in particular, are the most affected, and fish kills have been high in numbers, especially in the Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties.

These algae blooms also affect the economy - according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it can cost the American economy over $80 million a year in tourism, seafood, and health industries. This current outbreak, which was said to be one of the biggest ever seen, could only have people hoping that the fish death will end soon.

For now, beach goers can check red tide reports from websites like and to know whether their favorite beach haunt is safe from the stench of dead fish. Public works employee Juan Florensa said, "We're holding our breath here, pardon the pun."

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