[USA] A 2 1/2-foot gar with ferocious teeth washed ashore Thursday morning at Coquina Beach, a victim of toxic red tide.
The gar was just one of hundreds of fish that have died at the beach in the past week from exposure to red tide, Brian Haddix of Manatee County Beach Maintenance said Thursday.
“Red tide has finally made it up to this area,” Haddix said. “Beginning four or five days ago, we had numerous amounts of fish wash up, culminating with Sunday when we had a whole pickup truck load of fish that we had to haul off the beach and put in dumpsters.”
Coquina Beach crews have removed the fish early in the mornings before the beach crowds arrive, Haddix said.
Red tide, which can cause respiratory irritation in humans and serious ailments in marine life and pets, has low to medium concentrations in Manatee County right now, said Alina Corcoran, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in St. Petersburg.
“We collected a dozen water samples in Manatee County in the past week,” Corcoran said Thursday. “There are very low to medium concentrations in that area.”
One sample was collected at the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria and another was collected at the Longboat Pass boat ramp. Both were low to medium concentrations of red tide, Corcoran said.
Malcolm and Rhona Ross of Yorkshire, England, first noticed red tide on Longboat Key when the wind was blowing their way.
“Everyone was coughing in a row,” said Rhona Ross.
It wasn’t as noticeable Thursday, they said, even though it was in the air. If winds are carrying the toxic bloom away from the beach, people might not notice the red tide, Corcoran said.
Autumn is the perfect incubator for red tide because of water movement.
“Unlike other kinds of blooms, these blooms develop offshore,” Corcoran said. “They are not transported in-shore until deeper water in the Gulf of Mexico is brought up to the coast, which happens in the fall.
“So this is happening right on time for red tide,” Corcoran added.
Corcoran and her colleagues have been tracking two large blooms in Florida since the first week of September. It’s impossible to know when they will run their course, she said.
The reason the fish are dying is that red tide produces a neurotoxin that affects anything with a spinal cord, Corcoran said.
Insects may be able to fly through it with no ill effects.
“That is why fish stop breathing,” Corcoran said. “They become paralyzed and their gills stop working. We humans can also get shellfish poisoning if we eat shellfish that have been impacted by red tide.”
Dogs can die if they eat the foam of red tide or lick their fur after swimming in it, said Tracy Fanara, a staff scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory.
Fanara cautions pregnant women to avoid the beach in red tide because it can hurt an unborn child.
People with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can also have more serious side effects than other people, who are better soon after leaving the area, Fanara said.
The timing is worrisome given the proliferation of fall events, but Corcoran said the weather is cooperating this weekend.
“The Manatee County forecast over the next three days in southern Manatee County is for a very low to moderate risk of respiratory distress,” she said. “I also think the winds are offshore. That is good news.”