The bloom of red algae “red tide” this year off the coast of Florida has been the worst anyone has seen since 2006.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, defines a red tide, or harmful algae bloom, as a rapid growth of microscopic algae that produces toxins, which can have a harmful or deadly effect on marine life, birds and even humans.
Not only does the algae make breathing difficult for the locals, it has killed off tons of marine life including: fish, turtles, eels porpoises, manatees and even a whale shark.
Normally the season lasts from October through February, but this year the red tide has lasted nearly 10 months.
According to various news sources, the volume of dead sea life on local beaches has seemed to slow down in recent days. However, experts say the red tide and the toxins it produces are still lingering in local waterways.
Heather Barron, director of the animal hospital at the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, or CROW, on Sanibel said in addition to multiple turtles each day, they're seeing migratory birds impacted by a lack of food.
"We're also are seeing this very interesting syndrome where a lot of the shorebirds are migrating, and they just look like they’re starving," Barron said. "They’re coming in very thin and very weak. Usually with red tide their body weight is normal."
A FWC report released Friday states that the red tide counts are 25% + lower than they were just a week ago.
"In general the bloom more or less stayed where it’s at for the vast majority of Southwest Florida," said Jonathan Veach, an FWC spokesman. "(Recent counts) looked like maybe it weakened a slight bit in Lee and Charlotte counties but it’s been really bad there with fish kills the past few weeks."
The red tide counts can change quickly at any particular spot, depending on winds, currents, and the weather.