ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red tide has been a problem in Sarasota and Manatee counties for several weeks and now, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties might have to deal with the harmful algae, as well.
"The worst case would be there's more stuff offshore and it further transports to mouth region or further transport into the bay. That would be the worst case," said Dr. Yonggang Liu, the director of the Ocean Circulation Lab at the University of South Florida.
Low levels of the bloom have been detected in two spots at the mouth of Tampa Bay, but experts say right now, it shouldn’t be cause for alarm.
"I don't expect it's going to be a dramatic change in the next three days," Liu said.
However, it is a situation that researchers and marine wildlife experts are keeping a close eye on.
"At this particular moment, we're actually just monitoring, keeping an eye on it," said Dr. Shelly Marquardt, a veterinarian at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
The red tide levels in two parts of the Tampa Bay area are low now, and not a major threat to people or animals — but if it continues to move deeper into Tampa Bay, it could pose a real problem. At this point, researchers say they don’t expect to see a drastic red tide event in Tampa Bay.
"I don't expect the worst case like last year could happen. This year we’re probably fine,” Liu said.
Whether or not it continues to drift north depends on a number of different factors.
"The movement of red tide is mostly transported by ocean currents or waves that contribute to the current. There are two mechanisms,” Liu explained.
Red tide hasn’t had the same impact in Tampa Bay as it has further south in the wake of Hurricane Ian, and for the sake of fish and wildlife, experts are hoping it stays that way.
"When you see those low levels we need to start looking for fish death, any kind of possible if we see animals that are affected by this neurologically, have they been further down south where it's a little higher? So it just kind of puts it on our radar," Marquardt said.
You can find the latest red tide reports and maps here.