American Oceans

What Is Red Tide?

Red tide is a phenomenon that causes the surface of the sea to become discolored in, as the name suggests, a red color.

red tide phenomenon causes discolored sea surface

This phenomenon is caused by algal blooms which occur along coastal regions, making these tides a lot more noticeable. 

These algal blooms are very harmful, and they occur when colonies of algae grow out of control. Algae are normally harmless.

But in the case of algal blooms, the act of growing out of control makes it dangerous and harmful, allowing it to produce toxic reactions in animals and humans.

red tide blooms kill animals with toxic reactions

These toxic effects will not only harm fish and shellfish, but it could also affect mammals and birds who are near the red tide.

If you are from the State of Florida, then you are likely very familiar with the red tide. The red tide occurs in Florida almost every single summer, turning the Gulf Coast red.

With it, the algae brings difficulty in breathing if you are too near the affected water, and it can also cause some debilitating illnesses in humans if you are exposed to it for too long.

red tide affected water with dangerous algae

Even though red tide is most common along Florida’s Gulf Coast, every single US State has been affected by this phenomenon.

In fact, studies suggest that this phenomenon is on the rise. So, if you have not yet experienced the red tide, then you likely will at some point in your lifetime. 

What does red tide smell like?

Algae changing the color of the sea has become a sight that is very popular all around the world.

red tide sea blooms rotten smell

Every year, people flock to the areas at strange times of the day to see the algae change the color of the sea, but you might want to avoid going to see the red tide. 

This is mainly because of the stench. Generally, the sea has a salty smell which might not be everyone’s favorite scent, but it isn’t usually enough to put people off visiting the beach.

But, when the red tide comes, it brings with it a strong and repulsive smell that is enough to drive even the keenest beach-lovers away. 

With every breeze of wind that comes inland, the red tide brings a strong and disgusting smell of rot.

The red tide smells like gone off food that is a long way into the decaying process, and it is enough to turn the stomach of anyone who smells it. This is because it has a very sulfurous scent. 

You might expect to only smell this stench directly on the seafront, but tidal winds can actually bring this strong smell a couple of miles inland.

So, even if you do not live directly by the sea, you might still find yourself stuck with the putrid smell of the red tide. 

What is red tide caused by?

The red tide is a phenomenon that is caused by algae. While it might look like someone has tipped a lot of red dye into the sea, this discoloration is actually caused by millions of algae gathering under the sea. 

These groups of algae are known as algal blooms, and they are very common during the warmer, summer months.

Individually, these microorganisms of algae would be impossible to see, but as they gather in their millions, they literally turn the blue sea red.

With every new organism of algae that joins the bloom, the pack becomes denser, and the color becomes brighter and more noticeable. 

When these algae form into groups, they quickly grow out of control and become toxic and harmful.

So much so, that even breathing in the area near them can be enough to cause minor toxic side effects.

In particular, the red tide is very dangerous to the marine life living in the area, and in turn the humans, or animals, that eat this wildlife. 

Some people think that the red tide is a recent development, but this phenomenon has been around for millions of years.

The red tide is much older than human beings, but it is only recently that we have begun to learn more about what causes this strange effect on the sea. 

Why are red tides dangerous?

Red tides occur all over the world, and they can be very dangerous. This is because the red tide itself is caused by a gathering of harmful algae which form into something known as a bloom.

These harmful algae can then release toxins into the water, which affect marine life, as well as mammals, birds, and even humans. 

In small amounts, these toxins might not be harmful, but blooms are formed of millions of algae microorganisms.

With each microorganism releasing toxins into the water, the amount of harmful chemicals entering the water is very dense.

In some cases, the sheer amount of toxins that are being released into the water will cause marine life to die.

But more often, the marine life will soak up the chemicals, which then makes them dangerous. 

The toxins that are released by the algae that form the red tide are so powerful that they can actually affect the air on the coastal areas, often making it difficult to breathe if you are near these areas.

But these toxins are most harmful if you consume a fish or shellfish that has been affected by them. 

Direct consumption of marine life that has been exposed to algae toxins can be very dangerous.

This can lead to red tide poisoning, which can be debilitating for humans and fatal for most other mammals. 

What are red tide poisoning symptoms?

If you are directly exposed to the toxins that the red tide releases, then you might become poisoned by them.

The most common cause of red tide poisoning is the consumption of shellfish that is exposed to the toxins, normally because it lives in the water that is affected by the red tide. 

When marine life becomes affected by the red tide, it results in two things: death or poisoning.

If fish or shellfish survive the initial poisoning, then they will usually go on to poison whatever eats them.

The victims of these poisonings are usually birds, mammals, and humans. In both birds and smaller mammals, this poisoning is usually fatal, but in humans, it is usually just debilitating. 

In humans, red tide poisoning usually displays itself with neurological and gastrointestinal distress. This can cause dizziness and confusion, as well as diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.

Additionally, it can cause tingling in the tongue, lips, throat, and other extremities (such as toes and fingers), and muscular aches akin to those when you have the flu. 

These symptoms can be mild, or they can be extreme, it depends on how heavily exposed to the toxins you were.

Usually, you will begin to experience symptoms within a few hours of eating contaminated seafood, but it can take a couple of days for these symptoms to fully display themselves. 

How can red tide be prevented?

It is impossible to prevent the red tide, as this is a phenomenon that has been around for millions of years. However, it is possible to prevent red tide poisoning.

As long as you are not exposed to the red tide, then this phenomenon is harmless enough, so here’s what to do in order to avoid red tide poisoning. 

The first way to avoid this poisoning is to avoid entering any areas of water that have the trademark foul stench of red tide.

Additionally, you should avoid any water that appears discolored, has accumulations of algae on the surface, or foam or scum.

These are all clear signs of red tide, and an obvious sign that you should stay away. Most areas that are affected by red tide will also release guidance about this phenomenon, so it is best to check for local or State information on this. 

It is also best to avoid eating any seafood that has been caught in areas that are affected by red tide.

Most responsible fishermen will not catch or sell marine life from these areas, but if you are fishing yourself, you might not know how to avoid this. 

As long as you follow these tips, along with the local and State government for dealing with red tide, then you should be safe from red tide poisoning. 

Can red tide kill dogs?

We have spoken about how the red tide affects humans, but we have not yet spoken about man’s best friend, dogs.

If you regularly take your dog to the seaside, then you might be wondering if you need to be worried about red tide being harmful to your furry friend, and the answer is yes, you do. 

Dogs are mammals, just like humans, so they are also at risk of red tide poisoning. While dogs will not be exposed to toxins in the same way that humans might (as they do not eat seafood), the water itself can actually be harmful to your dog.

The water where red tide occurs is packed full of toxins that could be very dangerous for your dog’s health. When your dog runs in the sea, it will be splashed with water. This water will coat their fur, covering them with toxins.

As you know, dogs often enjoy licking themselves, so when they lick their fur, they will then ingest the harmful toxins that were in the water.

This will lead to them experiencing similar poisoning symptoms to humans. While this experience will not be pleasant for your dog, in most cases it will not be fatal.

So, usually, red tide will not kill dogs. But, it is still best to avoid exposing your dog to water that is affected by the red tide as it could still make them very ill. 

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