Red tide impacts Tampa Bay area beaches as spring breakers arrive

Our area is seeing impacts from red tide early this year
Spring break crowds Clearwater Beach WFTS.png
Posted at 2:39 PM, Mar 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-13 14:39:30-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — As red tide impacts our coastlines, spring breakers are making their way to our beautiful beach towns.

Red tide usually isn't an issue for spring breakers, but this year we are feeling the effects early.

Dr. Yonggang Liu said, "This year, of course, just in early March, it's early yeah previously, we didn’t see a red tide during this time of the year."

People coughing and dead fish are the sights on some beaches as people deal with the effects of red tide. While spring may feel early for this, Matt Garrett with the Fish Wildlife Research Institute said it's not unusual.

"We would still consider this to be our typical red tide season while most of the common times we see these are September to November, it's not unusual to have during the springtime," Garrett said.

Red tide: Tracking harmful blooms across Tampa Bay area beaches

The real question is, does this set us up for a bad year in terms of red tide?

Dr. Yonggang Liu said, "The combination of the new cells and the old cells that could lead to a major bloom in the summer and fall season that’s what happened in year 2018 and kind of the similar case but a lot less intense."

While that is a possibility, Dr. Liu says it's too soon to tell. The FWC said it's hard to provide long-term seasonal predictions.

The beaches most impacted by red tide can change daily.

Garrett said, "It is not uniform in the area that we are looking at, so it can change drastically from location to location, hour to hour, and day to day."

That's why it is important to be aware, but spring breakers may not know what to look out for.

In Pinellas County, St. Pete Beach leaders said they have signs up at Pass-a-grill and Upham beaches. Clearwater officials said they have a purple flag flying to warn people and say they will monitor the water and post signs if the testing is at medium or above.