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Dead fish, red tide, plague Florida tourists, beaches

Dead fish, red tide, plague Florida tourists, beaches

More than a dozen people have gone to the emergency room after exposure to the blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria.

"We came for the shark teeth, but we're going to have to move somewhere else", said Sol Whitten, who came from a county north of Tampa with his wife, six grandchildren and his daughter-in-law.

The latest red tide report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows high concentrations in samples collected from Sarasota County southward, meeting the threshold of at least 1 million Karenia brevis cells per liter of water. The FWC "documented 287 sea turtle deaths in Gulf of Mexico waters along the southwest Florida coast since the toxic bloom started in October", the Associated Press reported last week.

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Florida's southwest waterways are now under assault by two different combatants: A red tide bloom from the Gulf of Mexico and a separate toxic algae bloom, which many believe is linked to discharge from Lake Okeechobee.

Lee County has paired with private contractors to begin removing dead fish from its beaches, but officials warned that it could be a long and ongoing process. Currents may push the blooms to shore and chemical conditions on the shoreline can help the algae sustain itself.

Florida Fish and Wildlife officials say controlling the red tide is complicated. It comes from the ocean and can cause breathing problems, teary eyes, scratchy throats and make it unbearable to be at the beach. Fanara said there was an 18-month bloom that spanned the state from 2004-2006. The algae bloom - which gets its name because the microscopic algae often turn water red - has already lasted since November of a year ago, and could stretch into 2019, some scientists are saying.

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