There are thousands of species of algae in fresh and marine waters; these organisms form the basis of the food web and provide an important source of the oxygen we need to breathe. While most species are harmless to humans and animals, a growing number of species are being found worldwide that produce toxins that can make humans sick and cause widespread ecological and economic harm. These are known as harmful algal blooms.
Floridians along the Gulf Coast are probably most familiar with Karenia brevis, the organism that causes our own red tides, which can result in massive fish kills, the deaths of marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds and — for humans — neurotoxic shellfish poisoning and respiratory impacts, especially for those with asthma and other chronic respiratory conditions.
Mote researchers from many different disciplines investigate Florida's red tide to understand how blooms form, how they dissipate and what affects the blooms have on human and animal populations. Our holistic approach to understanding red tide is necessary to uncover the environmental impacts of this naturally occurring organism. It is also the key to managing and mitigating the effects of red tide on coastal residents, Florida visitors and animal populations.
Quick Links: Forecasts/Current Conditions
- Mote's Beach Conditions Report
- Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Red Tide Status Updates
- NOAA Harmful Algal Bloom Operational Forecast System
About Florida Red Tide
Florida red tide is a higher-than-normal concentration of a naturally occurring, microscopic algae called Karenia brevis, often abbreviated as K. brevis. It produces brevetoxins — powerful and potent neurotoxins — that can kill marine animals and be harmful to humans. Red tides form many miles offshore, sometimes causing no impact to humans. However, when red tides travel inshore on wind and water currents, they can cause respiratory irritation among beachgoers, especially those who have underlying lung diseases. The Florida Department of Health advises that people with underlying chronic respiratory problems like asthma or COPD should avoid red tide areas, especially when winds are blowing toxins on or near shore.
- FAQs about Florida red tide
- Mote red tide research
- Red tide vs. red drift algae: What's the difference?
Florida Red Tide: How You Can Help
Many community members have asked how they can help, with respect to Florida red tide and its impacts. Thank you very much for asking. Here are practical ideas from the Mote team.
Reducing harmful impacts from Florida red tide: The Mote-FWC/FWRI Cooperative Red Tide Program
Florida red tide causes adverse impacts to public health, natural resources and the economy. This cooperative effort between Mote Marine Laboratory and the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is designed to help mitigate the adverse impacts of Florida red tide along the Florida Gulf coast. The Program includes red tide monitoring, research and public outreach and education. This joint research program has resulted in better tools and ongoing monitoring for red tides along the Gulf Coast, along with better predictive capabilities to forecast where the effects of red tides might be felt by coastal populations, along with new public health messages new tools.
Harmful Algal Blooms in the Gulf of Mexico: A Primer