Travel Advisory: The Red Tide in Florida

Famous Clearwater Beach sunset at the Opal Sands Hotel

Last Updated: March 6, 2023

We’ve been traveling to Florida together for over 10 years now and up until recently, we’d never heard of “the red tide”, which is a general term for “harmful algae blooms (HAB) in the ocean”. In this post, we will share information about the red tide affecting Florida beaches right now.

Sign posted about the Red Tide
Sign posted about the Red Tide

The Red Tide – What is it?

According to Accuweather, “these harmful algal blooms usually make the water reddish-brown”, similar to the color of ocean water that’s been affected by sargassum seaweed. The toxicity of the red tide can cause fish to die in high numbers, taint seafood that people eat (mostly shellfish such as clams, mussels and oysters), affect those with asthma and respiratory issues, can make people sick with symptoms that look like a cold, and irritate people’s skin.

Bird on Clearwater Beach
Bird on Clearwater Beach

In Florida at this time, Karenia brevis algae is causing a red tide that is moving northward along Florida’s west coast and there is also breakaway bloom is moving through the keys. According to various news articles, including CNN’s latest article, the red tide has been affecting Florida for months and has caused the closure of some beaches. The red tide can affect any coastal beaches in the Gulf of Mexico, including those in Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas so you are advised to have a look and see if those areas are affected if you will be traveling there and are concerned. A great resource to consult is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website as they post a daily sample map with locations where red tide is present.

The Red Tide – What causes it and when will it go away?

According to the St. Pete Clearwater Tourism website, the red tide is known as a naturally occurring phenomenon that has been documented since the 1840s and affects the shores from “on-shore winds” but similar to sargassum seaweed blooms, some scientists blame agricultural runoff and septic tanks for feeding this algae that consumes nitrogen. There were hopes that Hurricane Michael will help to stop the bloom but so far that hasn’t happened yet.

Sargassum seaweed on the beach
Sargassum seaweed on Tulum beach

The Red Tide – Will it affect my vacation and what can I do?

Tourism is a big part of the local economy in Florida and while you shouldn’t cancel your trip, you may want to be familiar with how the red tide has affected places you will be visiting in Florida for your own health and also to avoid disappointment if you cannot use the beach as you have intended. For example, we decided to stay on Clearwater Beach as “normal conditions” have been reported for a numbers of days and weeks now. We also chose a hotel that has a nice pool area in case we can’t use the beach.

Max on Clearwater Beach
Max on Clearwater Beach

There really is no way to predict where the bloom will go, when it will stop, and if the beach will be nice the day of: it’s really up to you to do your research. Beyond messing with your vacation plans, let’s hope the red tide goes away sooner than later because it’s killing wildlife, making people sick, and affecting people’s livelihoods.

For more information, check out the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Red Tide Forecast: 

Have you ever had to change your travel plans as a result of something like this? Have you encountered the red tide? Have you ever heard of the red tide?

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