The last year has been hard for the Florida coast. Between deadly hurricanes and the red tide, a rare algae deadly to marine life and harmful to everything else, Florida has had a pretty rough year. The red tide continues to kill marine life in the waters that it’s currently occupying up and down the west coast of Florida. Experts say that the tide is supposed to dissipate over time, but as the toxic algae migrates north to Cocoa Beach and west into the Keys, locals are worried that the problem is long term.

What is red tide, exactly? It refers to a type of toxic algae that, when it blooms, turns the water around it a blood red color. They’re really no different from any other algae, but they become toxic when exposed to specific types of nutrients and minerals in large quantities. The red tide phenomenon isn’t very common.

What Is It?

The phenomenon happens when rivers bring nutrients from inland out to sea via brackish water. The algae ingest the nutrients and multiply on an exponential level. These types of algae blooms can become harmful (expert scientists refer to them as HAB’s, or “Harmful Algae Blooms”) to both wildlife and humans in the area. The algae emit toxic fumes for wildlife that ingest the same waters. The fumes are deadly, and have caused massive deaths for any marine species that ingest the algae in the area. Any species from turtles, manatees and dolphins to birds and fish are impacted by the wrath of the red tide. Sounds like a Poe story, right?

Even after their death, the algae continue to impact local ecosystems. The dead algae take up valuable space in the ocean, making the areas that they inhabit a hot spot for bacteria to thrive. When bacteria are ingesting a majority of the oxygen in the ocean within a specified space, other species cannot breathe. Once they’re dead, the algae of the red tide can still cause mass deaths in ocean ecosystems.

History of the Red Tide

The red tide isn’t something that’s new. It’s actually a fairly common issue that happens during the late summers in the area because the water is warmer. It’s also not uncommon for red tides to last for months on end. What does seem to be changing, however, is their frequency. Experts say that climate change is impacting the frequency of red tide because, overall, ocean temperatures are rising around the world.

Red tide has been happening along the coast of Florida for nearly a year now. The algae population has caused massive deaths in marine life all over the coast, causing carcasses of dead animals to regularly wash ashore. The impact of the red tide isn’t as harmful to humans, though it can cause allergic reactions and respiratory issues. These respiratory issues are most prevalent in those that struggle with asthma.