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ALERT: Red Tide Hits Tampa Bay Area

Sep 28, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

Florida Wildlife Commission and Mote Marine Laboratory officials have confirmed that red tide has hit the Tampa Bay area. Right after hitting Longboat Key, the red tide has afflicted Lido Key and Siesta Key beaches as well, and will reportedly last for two weeks to a few months.

"This is the time of year we get red tide," stated Kelly Richmond, communications director for the Florida Wildlife Commission. "There's so many factors involved we can't pinpoint how long it's going to be here."

According to the National Ocean Service, the red tide that has hit Florida is said to be caused by a microorganism called Karenia brevis. In large concentrations, thie said organism causes toxins that poison shellfish and make the air hard to breathe. The biggest victims of the red tide are fish. Thousands of dead snook, sea trout, pinfish and grouper have washed up on shore. A concentration of the fish kills were reported in Manatee, Sarasota and Pinellas counties.

"This is the worst I've ever seen," stated Justin Matthews, a wildlife rescuer, in a report by WWSB. "A lot of these birds eat the fish and it makes them incredibly sick."

As for humans, especially beachgoers with sensitive noses or respiratory issues, risks associated with the red tide include eye and throat problems. Dogs also need to be observed if the animals have been exposed to the red tide. It is best to clean them right after they've been to ocean, particularly the affected areas in Florida.

"Red tide is a naturally occurring microscopic algae that has been documented along Florida's Gulf Coast since the 1840s and occurs every year. Blooms, or higher-than-normal concentrations, of the Florida red tide alga, Karenia brevis, frequently occur in the Gulf of Mexico at this time of year (late summer or early fall). Red tide begins in the Gulf of Mexico 10 to 40 miles offshore and can be transported inshore by winds and currents," stated officials.

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