Low levels of red tide spotted in Key West

Low levels of red tide have been found in the Lower Keys, including Key West, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The red tide was spotted earlier this month at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and north of Key West at Looe Key reef. FWC reported the findings in its monitoring of red tide across the state.

Reports show the low concentrations of red tide were recorded in the Lower Keys on Oct. 12. , days after Hurricane Michael passed the Florida Keys.

Low concentrations means 10,000 to 100,000 of Karenia brevis cells per liter. High is one million cells per liter.

According to the FWC: “A red tide, or harmful algal bloom, is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic algae (plantlike organism). In Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, the species that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis.”

Red tide can cause fish kills and respiratory irritations but it doesn’t necessarily mean beaches are always shut down. People with severe or chronic respiratory illness, though, should keep away, officials say.

“Typically,yes, it is safe for humans to swim in red tide unless there’s other factors like bacteria from dead fish in the water,” said Michelle Kerr, a spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife.

A sampling of water by Ibis Bay Resort, 3101 N. Roosevelt Blvd., showed no signs of red tide, the FWC said.

A week ago, scientists discovered a species of algae in a Key Largo canal that causes a type of red tide.

But unlike the Karenia brevis red tide species that has infested beaches on Florida’s West Coast and turned up in Miami-Dade and three other East Coast counties, researchers with Florida International University said this week the Fibrocapsa japonica found behind the Pirate’s Cove subdivision is not associated with human illness.