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Researchers, FWC find high levels of red tide in Vero Beach

Posted at 9:08 PM, Oct 16, 2018

Water quality tests conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and researchers at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch both confirmed high levels of red tide in Vero Beach.

As a result, both city and Indian River County officials said beaches will be closed Wednesday.

FAU researcher Malcolm McFarland collected sampled Monday evening near South Beach.

“It’s my first chance to look at the red tide. I’ve heard about it for many years,” McFarland said.

Underneath a microscope, he determines the concentration of the red tide. “Count all the cells that I see,” McFarland said. “They twirl as they swim.”

He found nearly 1 million red tide cells per liter.

“This is some of the highest numbers of the red tide that I”ve seen,” McFarland said. He has also collected samples in Boynton Beach, Jupiter, Martin County, and Fort Pierce.

He also says the red tide is spreading to the east coast from the west coast of the state, with currents and tides bringing the red tide further north.

But, why so high in Vero Beach?

“Possible that there is local growth happening,” McFarland said.

He also said red tide doesn’t move or spread evenly.

“So, it’s not surprising that we would see high concentrations in some places and low concentrations in others,” McFarland said.

Gifford 8th grader Grace Levelston raced to the water, hoping the levels were still high. She is basing her science fair project on red tide.

“I’m hoping to find a way to pretty much kill the red tide with a household substance,” Levelston said.

She collected three buckets of ocean water. One, to use as a constant. The second bucket she will mix with hydrogen peroxide, and the third with extra sea salt. She hopes at least one of those two ingredients will lower the red tide counts, without hurting the environment. 

“Hope to fix the red tide with stuff you can find pretty much anywhere.”

McFarland says the red tide will likely keep moving toward other counties to the north.

“I don’t expect it to stick around,” said McFarland.