Sarasota, Florida -- It's tiny, but it can create havoc with the fishing industry and people with respiratory problems. The algae causing red tide is back and in a big way.
Pictures tell the story of dead fish floating on the water and a satellite picture shows an 80-mile long, 50-mile wide red tide bloom stretching for five counties.
The center of the bloom is off Hernando County and state officials say it is heading south.
"The bloom below the surface of the water column is projected to move southward," says Brandon Basino with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Just how far south the bloom travels worries Ashley Gilbert of Hart's Landing bait shop. "Less people will come have less bait. But even if we do have bait, it will die off anyways before it sells. It's a real concern," Gilbert said.
The FWC says the algae bloom is the largest associated with a fish kill since 2006.
"We have reports of thousands of fish various species of grouper, hog fish, grunt, snapper, lion fish," Basino said.
Basino says this is bloom season and this one is happening at the right time and in the usual area.
"We can't control the red tide, can't slow it down or make it stop but grin and bear it. .. Pull up our bootstraps to make it through it," Gilbert said.
The red tide bloom is a good opportunity for scientists. Thursday morning researchers with Mote Marine Laboratories will board a research boat and head north taking water samples between Sarasota and the bloom's edge in Pasco County.
Researcher Vince Lovko says scientists want to know what's happening below the surface because this bloom runs at least 100 feet deep.
"It could be there's an even larger bloom below the surface. It could be where the bloom started it may be why we didn't know about it until the large bloom surfaced," Lovko said.
Researchers will use a Nisken Bottle to take water samples. The tube-like instrument has a cap on either side that is opened when lowered into the water using a rope. A metal button will hit it to close the caps. "That hits the button, closes it and secures a water sample bring up to the surface," Lovko said.
Other equipment will test the water's profile. Lovko says a CTD will be lowered into the water similar to the Nisken bottle to take a variety of measurements.
"Salinity, temperature, oxygen, fluorescence," are some of the things the CTD will measure, Lovko said. "Having an idea of the bottom to see what the algae looks like, what the structure of the water looks like will help better predict where the bloom movement is going to go," Lovko said.
FWC says the bloom remains 40 miles off shore clear of the beaches.
"The bloom is too far off the shore to have health effects to beach goers it is affecting offshore fisheries receiving a lot of reports off shore from fisherman," Basino says.
Gilbert says enjoy the water while you can: "I say come on out get fishing while it's still good."
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