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Elevated levels of red tide reported in southwest Florida

FWC says dead fish and respiratory irritation have been reported in the region.

TAMPA, Fla. — Elevated levels of red tide are being reported off Florida's southwest coast. 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says it was observed at background to medium concentrations in and offshore of Lee County and background to low concentrations in and offshore of Collier County. 

FWC says dead fish and respiratory irritation have been reported in that area.

The latest report from NOAA's National Ocean Service shows a "moderate" respiratory irritation level along some of the Collier and Lee County shorelines. This means people in the area could experience mild symptoms related to red tide. 

Karenia brevis – the organism that produces red tide – is a type of algae that creates neurotoxins that become suspended in the air and cause respiratory illness, NOAA says. Symptoms can range from asthma and eye irritation to other respiratory issues.

The harmful algal blooms also contribute to fish kills. Much of southwest Florida and the Tampa Bay area were plagued with high concentrations of red tide in 2018, leading to a massive die-off of marine life. Beachgoers were annoyed and businesses suffered, too.

NOAA says bouts of red tide can last as little as a few weeks to longer than a year.    

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