“Extremely Low” Amount Of “Red Tide” Algae In Volusia

By on October 23, 2018 in WNDB News

New Smyrna Beach, FL – There’s not a lot of it, but the microscopic algae which causes the natural phenomenon known as red tide is present in the ocean water off Volusia.

That’s the word from county officials based on water samples gathered last Wednesday (October 17th) from Mary McLeod Bethune Beach Park which has since been tested by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for Karenia brevis.

Joanne Magley with Volusia County Community Information says the current levels of that algae are so low that FWC doesn’t actually consider it present off the Volusia coast, even though it is present in larger amounts just to the south in Brevard County.

“FWC confirmed background concentrations of Karenia brevis at a level of 667 cells per liter,” Magley added. “This is an extremely low concentration. These levels have no anticipated effects [on sea life or humans].”

Any amount of Karenia brevis which is less than 1,000 cells per liter is officially classified by FWC as “not present/background”. Levels between 1,000 to 10,000 cells per liter could cause possible respiratory irritation.

“For perspective, levels in Florida’s most affected areas reached more than one million cells per liter,” Magley noted.

Shellfish harvesting bans start when the algae levels reach 5,000 cells per liter or greater.

Red tide – which generally occurs in the Gulf of Mexico and is called that for the color the water turns when it shows up in large amounts – is blamed for the massive amounts of dead sealife which have washed up this year on the Gulf beaches in Florida.

Powerful neurotoxins produced by Karenia brevis are the primary cause for the sea life deaths, but those “brevetoxins” can also cause short-term coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat for any humans who come in contact, especially for those with severe or chronic respiratory conditions like asthma.

This news comes on the same day workers from the county’s Environmental Management and Beach Safety divisions helped FWC gather more red tide testing samples at three locations in Volusia. Two were at Hiles Boulevard and Crawford Road in New Smyrna Beach, while the other was at Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach, according to Beach Safety Captain Tammy Malphurs.

“These samples will be shipped to FWC for testing,” Malphurs added. “Currently, FWC has requested that samples be collected weekly.”

The results of those tests could be released in as little as two days, per Volusia County spokesperson Kate Sark.

VCBS workers will also be on the lookout for dead fish or other “biological debris” daily, with those same workers cleaning the beaches up if spotted, per Malphurs.

“There are currently no beach closures within Volusia County [due to red tide],” Malphurs stated. “However, staff will be posting cautionary signage informing the public about the potential presence of red tide. Volusia County and the FWC advise beachgoers to use their best judgment when visiting a beach impacted by red tide.”

Experts say various factors – including sunlight, nutrients salinity, and the speed and direction of wind and water currents – will likely ensure that red tide will not grow locally to the levels seen in the Gulf.

Click here for the FWC’s map showing current red tide locations.

Anyone who wants to report a fish kill can call FWC at 1-800-636-0511.

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