What is Florida Red Tide?

With the recent influx of red tide that has caused havoc on Florida’s beaches and marine wild-life, most people are curious as to what it is and how it came about in
the first place.
 
“Florida Red Tide” is a higher-than-normal concentration of the microscopic alga (plant-like organism) Karenia brevis. This toxin is what causes respiratory irritation and affects fish, marine mammals (like dolphins), sea turtles, and some birds.
 
Karenia brevis makes a chemical called brevetoxin that accumulates in the tissue of filter feeders, like oysters, clams, bivalves and scallops. Marine animals eat the contaminated filter feeders, which are then eaten by larger predators.

Why Is “Red Tide” so abundant in Florida right now?

The Karenia brevis algae species likes conditions in which Florida is near and dear to its heart, like nutrient-rich waters. This can be attributed to the three major factors: warm ocean currents, elevated levels of nutrients thanks to heavy recent rainfall in the region, and a general state preference for rich water habitat. Florida “Red Tide” can be found in coastal waters year-round, but blooms of K. brevis are most often seen in Florida from June to November. Karenia brevis blooms occur along Florida’s west coast and the elsewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. One of the reasons for Florida’s unique red tide is that the Gulf Stream passes right by our state. Warm ocean currents, as well as nutrients from freshwater runoff help to make Florida one of the best places in the world for K. brevis blooms. One of the other major factors for the resurgence of “Red Tide” is that there has been a lot of rainfall in this west coastal area. With this, the algae have received a higher concentration of nutrients which causes more blooms to happen when the waters mix.

Current Status

Every year, blooms of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis occur on Florida’s Gulf Coast and in Tampa Bay. However, this week alone 126 samples were found to have Karenia brevis cells with bloom concentrations (over 100 thousand per liter) being found in Pinellas County, Sarasota County and now along Lee County’s coast. Historically, the most intense red tides have occurred between Fort Myers and Tampa Bay. However, there are other areas like the Keys that can also be affected by “Red Tide”. The blooms may affect some beaches more than others depending on several variables, like wind direction and ocean currents.
 

As of today, Lee County and some other areas have been experiencing filter feeder bans due to potentially dangerous levels of toxicity that the “Red Tide” can cause in humans. Over 600 tons of marine life have been found dead along the coastlines, however there are still no reported human deaths as a result of this current phenomena.

How long does Florida Red Tide last?

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), “Karenia brevis blooms often dissipate naturally, but their duration can range from days to months. The red tide organism Karenia Brevis lives mainly in deep waters during
the bloom season, but it’s transported closer to shore on ocean currents and winds.”
 
That’s right, the blooms come and go. And while most of them are unpredictable as to when they will occur, there are some other factors that have been found to be relevant to their duration in the past. For example, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study from 2006 revealed that prolonged pulses of nutrients at high levels were associated with red tide events that last longer than
the typical bloom period of 10-30 days.
 
How long it lasts depends on weather conditions such as wind direction, strength and speed; salinity levels in coastal waters caused by freshwater runoff from heavy rainfall or man-made changes to natural water flows; and local geography such as
bays or estuaries with restricted flow out to sea.
 
According to a recent study from Penn State University, the red tide organism that is causing so much damage this year (Karenia brevis) is actually native to Florida and has been around for eons. The toxin it produces that kills certain species of marine life isn’t harmful to humans, which may seem like a relief. The current bloom has been characterized as the longest-lasting on record.

Impact on the economy, marine wildlife, and the human body

The Karenia brevis blooms are causing high levels of economic damage to the state. With the red tide currently sitting along Florida’s coast and in Tampa Bay, it is having a major impact on tourism. Hotels and restaurants near affected beaches have been experiencing lower occupancy rates which is affecting their revenues. It is also impacting businesses that rely on fishing and service industries in Florida.

For example, one boat rental company in Fort Myers has reported that the “Red Tide” is ruining their business and causing them to lose thousands of dollars a week. Many industries along the coast are also suffering the consequences of tourists staying away to avoid the “Red Tide”. In addition to the economic impact, the effects on humans from eating seafood contaminated with red tide toxin can be rather worrisome. Some of the symptoms from eating to much seafood that has been tainted by red tide are known to include;  diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, liver damage and other flu-like symptoms.

 

Those who suffer from inflammation related illnesses should be particular worried about red tide because the toxins are known to aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions. This is because the rhizoxin poison emitted by Karenia brevis disrupts cellular metabolism in ways similar to that of the human immune cell COX-2 enzyme. Any form of inflammation that occurs in the human body is known to have a direct correlation with COX-2 activity. Inflammation is what causes swelling in the joints and muscles, as well as pain. In extreme cases, this can lead to serious illnesses such as inflammation of the heart muscles or brain arteries.

What can be done to curb inflammation?

There are various ways to curb inflammation including taking natural anti- inflammatory supplements. Here are a few:
 
Glucosamine is an amino acid that has been found to help prevent inflammation and even reverse it. It also helps repair cartilage in joints like knees, elbows, ankles etc. It’s only natural for the body to begin breaking down cartilage as we age which causes pain, joint stiffness, and muscle weakness. Glucosamine helps the body make more of its own cartilage to cushion joints and improve mobility. When our
bodies run out of glucosamine, we start breaking down joint tissue which causes pain and arthritis type symptoms.
 
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential polyunsaturated fatty acid that your body needs for many important functions. Omega-3s play a major role in reducing inflammation, regulating blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and boosting brain and nerve function. It is important to note that omega-3s will not reduce inflammation in the body if you are taking anti-inflammatory medications as these medications will work against them. You also need to be sure not over consume omega-3s as they are considered an essential omega fat which means that we need to have them present in our diet or it can lead to health complications.

One of the most crucial and important natural anti inflammatory supplements is CBD. CBD is a plant-based, non-intoxicating natural compound that reduces inflammation. CBD binds to several receptors and enzymes and, therefore, its mode of action remains elusive. CBD’s anti-inflammatory potential may be due to its ability to inhibit the COX-2 enzyme, which is involved in prostaglandin production. CBD also regulates immune cells and reduces the release of inflammatory mediators like cytokines and chemokines. CBD ‘s anti-inflammatory effects may also be related to its antioxidant and neuroprotective properties, which could help reduce neurotoxicity caused by oxidative stress. This oxidative stress is one of the main correlations with those that have overconsumed fish with Red Tide toxins. Nature’s Gem is a leading supplier of high quality CBD formulations, and is located on Longboat Key in Florida!

Conclusion

Red Tide has been a devastating phenomenon for the local marine wildlife, but also for Florida’s tourist economy. The red tide is caused by an algae bloom that affects the ecosystem of coastal areas and blocks light from penetrating to create oxygen which can lead to fish kills and other negative consequences. Though there have not been any reported human deaths as a result of this event, it is important to note
that inflammation in humans may be exacerbated or worsened when exposed to certain microorganisms found within organisms such as phytoplankton like those seen during Red Tide events. There are many natural solutions available including CBD oil that could help alleviate some of these symptoms without causing harmful side effects on your body’s immune system. The long-term impacts on Florida’s marine life, tourism industry and the effects on human life from the Red Tide phenomena will have to be monitored and researched closely.