Red Tide

Photograph of red tide in the ocean waters

The City of Vero Beach has become aware of an unknown odor and some dead fish washing up on our City beaches. We would recommend that the public stay out of the water and if the odor causes any type of irritation the public should leave and head indoors. At this time we are waiting for a report from the Indian River County Health Department/ Fish and Wildlife Commission for updated information.

What is Red Tide?

• Red tides are caused by the massive growth of tiny, microscopic algae, which is a type of phytoplankton in the ocean.
• In Texas, microscopic algae named Karenia brevis often cause red tides. Massive growth of these algae gives the water a reddish color, which is why it is called a red tide.
• Karenia brevis is always present in our oceans, usually in small numbers, and only forms red tides when environmental conditions are just right for growth.
• Red tides often begin in late summer or early fall, and can last for days to months.
• Red tides move and change shape with ocean tides, currents and winds.
• Karenia brevis is a fragile algae and in rough conditions like surf it will break into small pieces and release noxious particles and chemicals into the air in wind-blown aerosols.

Is it Harmful and How Will it Affect Me?
• Karenia brevis produces chemicals called brevetoxins, which acts on the nervous system.
• Brevetoxins can cause large fish kills by paralyzing fish and preventing them from breathing.
• Irritating particles and brevetoxins in wind-blown aerosols can affect breathing in people and pets.
• Some kinds of seafood that concentrate brevetoxins can cause severe illness if consumed.
• Karenia brevis red tides are mostly just noxious but some situations call for special attention.
• Red tide aerosols can cause severe irritation of eyes, nose and throat; sneezing; and cough or difficulty breathing. People with       asthma are especially sensitive to these aerosols.
• Consuming dead fish from red tide fish kills can cause severe illness in people and death of pets.
• Shellfish concentrate brevetoxins from red tides and cause severe illness if consumed.
• Fish spines and bones on the beach after a red tide can cause puncture wounds and dangerous infections from high levels of bacteria in decomposing fish.
• People and their pets are advised to avoid beaches during a red tide.

Can I Eat Fish during a Red Tide?
• Finfish caught alive are safe to eat after they have been gutted and well rinsed. Shrimp and crabs caught alive are also safe to eat.
• Commercial seafood in restaurants and grocery stores is safe to eat because it is regulated and harvested from waters
free of red tide.
• It is not safe to eat fish killed from a red tide. The cooking process does not deactivate Brevetoxins.
• It is not safe to eat oysters and other filter-feeding shellfish from a red tide area. Shellfish concentrate brevetoxins during red tides and cause a serious food poisoning in humans called Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning.

More Facts:

Red Tide Fact Sheet

Red Tide in Florida and Texas

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Red Tide Information