Water-Related News

Scientists fear red tide bloom may be lingering offshore

LEE COUNTY » Drunk-acting cormorants are showing up in higher numbers at a Sanibel rehabilitation center, and the birds are testing positive for a toxin related to a harmful algal bloom festering in the Gulf of Mexico.

A patch of red tide off Boca Grande, near Lee County's northeast border, is visible by satellite and is moving closer to shore, scientists say.

The combination of satellite imagery and sick birds has local water quality scientists concerned that a red tide could soon move into the area.

These aquatic birds are the canary in the coal mine for detecting red tide, an algal bloom that causes fish and marine mammal kills and can cause respiratory issues in humans.

"We definitely started to see an uptick in October, which is sort of the official start of red tide season," said Heather Barron, hospital director at the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, or CROW, on Sanibel. "I think it’s possible they were locally exposed."