The Alabama Department of Public Health is cautioning beachgoers that red tide has spread to Baldwin County.
The department said on Friday that “water samples collected from Alabama Point to Little Lagoon Pass in Baldwin County indicate the presence of red tide cells in the low to medium range.” Meanwhile, in Northwest Florida, the amount of red tide in coastal waters has increased over the last week. New sampling data has found:
• “Low concentrations” in Santa Rosa Sound near the Bob Sikes Bridge
• “Low concentrations” at Pensacola Beach in Escambia County
• “Medium concentrations” at Navarre Beach in Santa Rosa County
Respiratory irritation was reported in Okaloosa County during the last week, but measurements have not been conducted in the area recently.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC), swimming is safe for most people during red tide blooms. Some people may experience itchy skin, burning eyes, and respiratory irritation. Normally, any symptoms people feel while in the area of red tide will subside shortly after leaving the affected coastal environment.
While humans can quickly recover from red tide symptoms, the toxins the organism produces can injure or kill marine life. On Wednesday evening, FWCC said “In Northwest Florida, reports of fish kills were received for Okaloosa, Walton, Bay and Franklin counties.”
Over the next few days, winds from the south and east could push red tide offshore closer to the Gulf Coast. Health officials in Alabama and Florida will continue monitoring Gulf and bay waters for the presence of red tide.
The presence of red tide in the Gulf of Mexico is not unusual. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that blooms of Karenia brevis are “particularly common in coastal regions of Florida and Texas.” In Florida, severe red tides have been observed since the mid-1900s before the state’s coastlines were heavily developed.