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What Exactly is Red Tide?

Red tides can occur in coastal areas around the word, and although not common in north Florida, it is not a new phenomenon – Red tide was first documented on Florida’s Gulf Coast in the 1840s (and probably occurred much earlier)!

In short, Red Tide is a higher-than-normal concentration of microscopic alga. In Florida, red tide is caused by the species Karenia brevis (K. brevis), which produces a toxin that can affect the central nervous system of fish. At high concentrations, referred to as a bloom, these organisms can discolor the water, kill fish and cause respiratory irritation to humans who breathe in water particles churned up by high surf. Although it’s called red tide, these blooms can also appear greenish, brownish or even purple in color. The water can also remain its normal color during a bloom.

Currently, red tides cannot be predicted, and the effects of a red tide depend on the location and concentration of the red tide microorganism at a given time. Wind and tide can blow the algae away from areas as quickly as they can sometimes bring it to an area.

People with severe or chronic respiratory conditions (such as emphysema or asthma) are advised to avoid red tide areas. Generally, symptoms are temporary and disappear within hours.

It’s worth noting that many people still enjoy the beach during red tide. Respiratory irritation and dead fish are not always present. For most people, swimming during a red tide bloom is OK. However, red tide can cause skin irritation and burning eyes. If you experience irritation, get out of the water and thoroughly rinse with fresh water.

Want to learn more about red tides? CLICK HERE to visit the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute website. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also has a map available on its website that tracks the current status of red tide blooms along Florida’s Gulf Coast. It can be viewed HERE.

Although red tide blooms are unpredictable, there are always plenty of ways to enjoy your stay in South Walton if one is present. From award-winning restaurants to local boutiques, art galleries and 200-plus miles of hiking and biking trails, you can take advantage of Walton County’s off the beach activities to ensure your vacation is one you’ll cherish for years to come.

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