TAMPA, Fla. — After Hurricane Ian, experts say a red tide bloom started in Sarasota that killed thousands of fish and caused respiratory issues for people in the area.
Now, researchers say the bloom has traveled north to the Bay Area — red tide has been spotted on beaches in Pinellas County like St. Pete Beach and in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Residents were warned by the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County not to swim where there are dead fish in the water, and told people with respiratory issues to avoid affected areas. But what may residents are asking is: How long will red tide stay in the area and will it get worse?
“This intensity around Tampa Bay it is big, it’s covering almost the entire Tampa bay,” said Chaunmin Hu, a researcher who is no stranger to red tide. "... I see Red Tide very close to the beach — St. Pete Beach, Madeira Beach and Sarasota Beach."
Hu, a professor at the University of South Florida, says he has been researching red tide for 25 years and has been watching for blooms due to recent storms.
“I have been tracking red tide for the past few weeks, actually since Hurricane Ian,” he said.
Hu studies optical oceanography — but he calls himself a red tide hunter from space, because he tracks it by looking at satellite images of the area. And since Hurricane Ian, he says red tide has traveled north from Sarasota to beaches in Pinellas county.
“Whenever you see a greenish color in this type of image there is a huge amount of algae there,” he said, pointing to a map of the area near St. Pete beach.
But he says depending on the wind forecast, the are can anticipate the red tide to get worse.
“I think we are going to see a lot of dead fish next week, because according to the wind forecast, the next few days will be very calm. no major wind so this won’t go away,” he said.
Hu said the forecasts also indicate where it might go next.
“There will be wind to push red tide further north and further into the bay,” he said.
Hu says red tide comes to the Tampa Bay area almost every year, and unfortunately, he says there is no way to make it stop.
“We have ideas of how red tide starts but we don’t fully understand how red tide stops or goes away,” he said.