Red tide still closing beaches, killing fish, causing coughs along Treasure Coast | Map
Red tide isn't going anywhere — except onto Treasure Coast beaches.
Rather than blowing back out to sea and getting caught up in the Gulf Stream that brought it here in the first place, red tide and its effects — killing fish and irritating people's throats and eyes — were reported Monday along shorelines in Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties.
All beaches in Indian River County and north St. Lucie County were either closed or closed to swimming Monday because of red tide.
An east wind blowing the red tide to shore can cause the algae cells to break open and release their toxins into the air. So not just beachgoers, but anyone within reach of the sea spray can get the typical symptoms: scratchy throat, watery eyes and sneezing.
Widespread beach closings
Indian River County officials announced Monday morning the beach at Round Island Park, the last to remain open in the county since red tide showed up last week, was closed.
At the same time, St. Lucie County officials announced all county beaches on North Hutchinson Island, including those at Fort Pierce Inlet State Park and Avalon State Park, were closed. The beach at Avalon was open for walking and shelling but closed to swimming.
Dead fish Treasure Coast-wide
Dead fish were reported Monday to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on beaches from Sailfish Point on the St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County to north of the Fort Pierce Inlet in St. Lucie County, said agency spokeswoman Kelly Richmond.
And dead fish continued to come ashore on Indian River County beaches, which were hit hard last week, said County Coastal Engineer James Gray.
Ed Killer: Red tide movements mysterious, troublesome
Richmond had no information about the overall number of dead fish reported, but reports from sites along the Treasure Coast add up to the thousands.
"There's dead fish as far as you can see" south of Avalon State Park on North Hutchinson Island, Michael Langan, a resident of nearby Atlantic View Beach Club condominiums, told TCPalm Monday.
"Hundreds" of dead fish were reported Monday between Pepper Park and Fort Pierce Inlet State Park on North Hutchinson Island, said St. Lucie County spokesman Erick Gill.
On beaches south of the inlet, fish were "few and far between," Gill said.
"Probably hundreds" more were seen between the St. Lucie Inlet and Jensen Beach in Martin County by sea turtle monitors at Ecological Associates Inc. of Jensen Beach, according to biologist Samantha Pessolano.
"About 40" dead fish were reported Monday between Jensen Beach and the Martin-St. Lucie county line, said Martin County spokeswoman Martha Ann Kneiss.
Counties cleaning up
Cleaning up dead fish is the responsibility of local jurisdictions, Richmond said.
On Monday afternoon, officials at both Martin and St. Lucie counties were trying to figure out if they could pick up all their dead fish with in-house resources or needed to hire outside contractors.
Indian River County already has contracted with Ceres Environmental, an international company with offices in Sarasota, to remove "marine debris" — dead fish, seaweed and driftwood — along the entire county coastline.
The crews are cleaning about a mile to a mile and a half a day, Gray said.
On Tuesday, they'll start at Jaycee Park and work north to the Sea Quay pier and south toward Conn Beach.
FWC was working with several agencies Monday to take water samples at sites with possible red tide, Richmond said.
"If we get samples today, we could have results as early as Tuesday or Wednesday," Richmond said.
All samples have to be sent to and processed by the FWC lab in St. Petersburg, which is "definitely getting a lot of samples to work on," Richmond said.
According to the FWC, the toxins red tide:
- At very low levels: (1,000 to 10,000 cells per liter of sea water) can cause respiratory irritation
- At low levels (10,000 to 100,000 cells per liter): cause likely breathing problems and possible fish kills
- At medium levels: (100,000 to 1 million cells per liter): cause breathing problems and probable fish kills
- At high levels (over 1 million cells per liter) breathing problems and fish kills are likely, and the reddish-brown cells that give the red tide
The highest levels recorded so far on Florida's East Coast — 9 million cells per liter of sea water — were reported Wednesday at Turtle Trail Beach south of Wabasso by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute scientist Malcolm McFarland.