Possible red tide exposure warning prompted for Bonita Beach Park

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Beach cleanup after dead fish was found along the shoreline of Bonita Beach Park. (Credit: WINK News)

Monday, Florida Department of Health in Lee County sent a health alert advising red tide blooms could be present along the coast near Bonita Beach Park in Bonita Springs.

Exposure to red tide might induce symptoms such as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, similar to cold symptoms. Officials say, if you have asthma or other breathing problems, symptoms could be more severe.

Those at the DOH-Lee say to avoid swimming or fishing in the area if possible. Do not consume any fish from this area, and run your air conditioner instead of opening windows.

There also high levels of red tide in the Gulf off the coast of Lee County and Collier County. The worst spots are confirmed to be between Bonita Beach and North Naples.

The view above the Gulf of Mexico gives a different perspective to what’s going on with the water off the coast of parts of Southwest Florida.

“When we started this monitoring, at first, all we were seeing was the dark water coming out of the Caloosahatchee,” said Ralph Arwood, a pilot for LightHawk Conservation Flying.

Arwood first teamed up with Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani in the fall to document releases from Lake Okeechobee and local runoff, as they flow into the Gulf.

As time passed, other colored patches appeared in the Gulf, including near Sanibel Island. Cassani says it’s likely red tide.

“The expansive reddish brown or rust-color blooms apparently are showing optical characteristics of red tide or Karenia brevis,” Cassani said.

While we see the stretch of dark water from the air, Cassani believes more offshore sampling is key.

“Most of the sampling occurs right at the beach, right at the land-water interface, and a lot of people don’t realize that single dot is just an instantaneous value,” Cassani said. “So an hour later, a day later could be different, could be completely different.”

Cassani says, if red tide worsens or gets in back bays and hits nutrient-rich water, the combination could keep the red tide blooming.

Other recommendations from DOH

  • Do not swim around dead fish at this location.
  • If you have chronic respiratory problems, be careful and consider staying away from this location as red tide can affect your breathing.
  • Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish and distressed or dead fish from this location. If fish are healthy, rinse fillets with tap or bottled water and throw out the guts.
  • Keep pets and livestock away from water, seafoam and dead sea life.
  • Residents living in beach areas are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner (making sure that the A/C filter is maintained according to manufacturer’s specifications).
  • If outdoors, residents may choose to wear paper filter masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing.

If your symptoms do not go away after a few days, call your health provider or poison control at 1-888-232-8635.


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