TAMPA, Fla. — The largest red-tide bloom seen in Florida in nearly a decade has killed thousands of fish in the Gulf of Mexico and might pose a greater health threat if it washes ashore as expected in the next two weeks, researchers said.
The patchy bloom stretches from the curve of the panhandle to the central Tampa Bay region. It measures approximately 80 miles long by 50 miles wide.
Red tide occurs when naturally occurring algae bloom out of control, producing toxins deadly to fish and other marine life. The odorless chemicals can trigger respiratory distress in people, such as coughing and wheezing.
“It could have large impacts if it were to move inshore,” said Brandon Basino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “It has been killing a lot of marine species, especially fish, as it waits offshore.”
The agency has received reports of thousands of dead fish, including snappers, groupers, flounders and bull sharks, as well as crabs, eels and octopi. This is the largest bloom seen since 2006.
The phenomenon has existed for centuries, but such a large bloom is being closely monitored in Florida because it could affect beach tourism and commercial fishing.
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