Officials continue to monitor the red tide organism in Palm Beach and Martin County waters.
We’ve watched our neighbors on the west coast deal with a massive marine life kills from the red tide and the last thing people want to worry about is for that to happen here.
Luckily, wildlife experts said our area has several factors working on our side, that will hopefully prevent that.
“When we have a red tide, we always worry about the ecosystem and the animals that live in our waterways," said Dr. Zack Jud of the Florida Oceanographic Society.
He and his team have been keeping a close watch on the red tide.
“The organism that’s responsible for the bloom releases a neurotoxin that not only harms the fish but bigger animals as well like manatees, dolphins and sea turtles," he said.
How long the animals are exposed is one of the biggest concerns.
“Even when those concentrations are at the lower medium end of things, we still can run into respiratory issues with swimmers and beachgoers and we can also encounter incidences of fish kills and other impacts on marine life," said Jud.
Even seabirds and other air-breathing animals like sea turtles can be affected by eating fish poisoned with that neurotoxin.
“We’re obviously really concerned this could turn into a much bigger issue," said Jud.
Meantime, Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach is requesting emergency funding for equipment to monitor toxin levels in sea turtles in real time, as well as to buy medication that can detox and treat turtles.
Jud says luckily, our area has wind and water depth working in our favor.
“On the east coast we tend to have deeper beaches, we’ve got strong ocean currents, we’ve got more wind and wave energy this time of year," he said. “But at the same time, it’s not entirely impossible for us to see some impacts on marine life in our area.”
The hope is that the red tide is limited to just a few days, not months like on the west coast of Florida.
For now, Jud says people need to keep an eye on the beaches.
“You see anything suspicious, if you see dead fish or wildlife acting abnormally, please call the Florida wildlife and conservation commission and report what you’ve seen," he said.
Our own Steve Weagle took some pictures of dead fish in Juno Beach.
There’s no way for us to know if it’s linked to red tide so we will report the sighting to FWC, as it continues to monitor this situation.