South Marco, Seagate, Vanderbilt and Barefoot beaches recently became the first Collier County sites to report beach conditions to the public through Mote Marine Laboratory’s Beach Conditions Reporting System (BCRS).

The BCRS ( provides twice-daily updates on conditions like wave height, wind direction, surf conditions, presence of seaweed or dead fish, rip currents, cautionary lifeguard flags and respiratory irritation due to the harmful algal bloom Florida red tide. Trained volunteers, such as lifeguards and park rangers, update the site using smartphones.

“Now, visitors and residents can get these updates on their phone with the new Beach Condition Reporting System app for smartphones available in the App Store,” said Dr. Tracy Fanara, manager of Mote’s Environmental Health Program.

Mote scientists created the BCRS in 2006 to help the public adjust their beach choices during red tides, and the system’s variety of information has since become a valuable resource at all times.

“Our goal with the Beach Conditions Reporting System is to create a public outreach tool that can help our visitors and residents make informed decisions when visiting our beautiful beaches, especially during red tide events,” Fanara said.

User-friendly beach monitoring services are more important than ever, given that a record-breaking 79.1 million people visited Florida during the first nine months of 2015.

The BCRS currently monitors 31 of Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches in Escambia, Okaloosa, Gulf, Franklin, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties, and Mote is actively seeking opportunities to expand its coverage.

On each beach, trained volunteers take specific observations and photos to document current conditions. Their findings are processed and distributed through Mote’s Southern Operations Coastal Ocean Observing Laboratory (SO-COOL) – which collects and manages several kinds of environmental data to support marine science, ecosystem health and public outreach.

While many municipalities, tourism agencies or other beach-related authorities participate in BCRS by arranging for volunteers to provide updates, Visit Sarasota County and the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau are providing much-needed funds for BCRS to operate and expand by sponsoring their beach listings. Sponsored listings feature promotional photos of the beaches and list their amenities — such as shower facilities, dog-friendly areas and snorkeling highlights — on the BCRS web site. Survey results indicate that beachgoers highly value amenity information.

Municipalities interested in listing their beaches on Mote’s BCRS should contact Tracy Fanara at or 941-302-2046.