What is it?

Red Tide, also harmful algal blooms (HABs), is usually the algae Karenia brevis. According to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, that tracks and monitors algae blooms, Red Tide is “higher-than-normal concentrations, often discoloring the water.” Unlike freshwater algae blooms caused by pollution and runoff in lakes, red tides occur naturally 10 to 40 miles offshore in Florida. Generally these yearly, reoccurring blooms pass without notice. But when they move close enough to shore, beach goers will notice the telltale signs; fish kills, poor air and water quality.

Red Tide
Red Tide
A red tide is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plant-like organism). In Florida, the species that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis (K. brevis).

Is it really that bad?

Generally, a red tide lasts a short time and then passes as quickly as it came. But not always. When an HAB hangs around it can cause problems and discomfort for marine wildlife, residents and visitors. The fish kills that wash up on the beach are tragic, smelly and unsightly. But the irritation that the bloom can cause to skin, eyes, and lungs make red tide a real health hazard for those with compromising health issues like asthma. All these things can impact a visit to the beach.

Red Tide
Harmful Algal Bloom-Associated Illnesses | CDC
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are the rapid growth of algae that can cause harm to animals, people, or the local ecology. A HAB can look like foam, scum, or mats on the surface of water and can be different colors. HABs can produce toxins that have caused a variety of illnesses in people and animals.

It's here! Now what?

So what can you do? First check out the Red Tide Forecast. Visit the local tourism sites and see what they are saying. If it is a normal occurrence, treat it like you would any other interference to plans, and head inland for the day. The concentration of the HAB organism, may only be high enough for notice for a day or two. Plan a visit to attractions away from the beach or indoor activities. Don't enter the water that day, and if you have a asthma or other lung issues, keep your medications handy. Once you get the notice that it is safe to enter the water, enjoy the beach! Most areas have a plan to clean up the beach and you may not even notice anything was amiss.

Red Tide
Red Tide - Statewide Status
FWC reports on the current status of Karenia brevis blooms using tables, static maps, and interactive Google Earth maps. Archived status maps can be found in our Flickr gallery.

Why do I need trip insurance?

If a red tide algae bloom doesn't recede, but hangs around like it did in the Tampa area this year (Summer 2018), you may want to cut your trip short or even cancel your trip. Contact your trip insurance carrier and ask about getting a refund for your stay or the days of your stay you didn't get to use. Some owners and rental companies have provisions in their contracts and cancellation policies about issues like this too. Some owners may be willing to reschedule your trip or even refund your trip if your insurance won't cover it. But if you failed to get insurance, you may be sorry. Even if you are able to reach a compromise and reschedule your stay, available times may not match up to your schedule and you may end up with only a small portion of your trip's cost returned or nothing at all.

Red Tide
Travel Insurance - Trip Tips Tiki House recommends all travelers to purchase trip insurance for any visit to any vacation rental home or any...
Travel Insurance - Trip Tips Tiki House recommends all travelers to purchase trip insurance for any visit to any vacation rental home or any...

Is it time to panic?

Don't panic! Red tides come and go with the wind and weather. They can be blown on shore in a day and then blown right back out. Watch the forecasts if they are near and don't let it ruin a trip to the beach any more than a thunderstorm can. It is part of nature and something no one has control of.... yet!

Most of all, don't let the fear of a red tide keep you from planning a trip to the beach. In the many years we have visited and owned on Pensacola Beach, we only experienced one red tide. It lasted for about 36 hours and only kept us indoors for one day. But if you are planning a trip to an area currently plagued by HABs, you should definitely take notice and communicate with the owner and keep your eye on the forecast.

Get the information you need to be informed! The following links can help!

(Click on the topic to go to the link.)

HAB General Information on all HABs

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Information on Red Tides

HAB Fact Sheets

Information from the Florida Department of Health

FAQ on Red Tide

To get updates on your Facebook Timeline follow the he Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, FL and Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL who have come together to monitor harmful algal blooms (HABs) - including the Florida Red Tide - in coastal waters on Facebook. Click and Follow --> HERE

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Red Tide
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