Florida Red Tide: Is It Safe To Eat The Fish ?

Living in Southern Florida in relatively close proximity to Lake “O” we hear a lot about algae blooms and the toxic effects of it on estuaries and marine wild life, but what about red tides? I often wondered EXACTLY what red tides were and why nobody seems to make as big of a deal about red tides as they do about the algae blooms from Lake “O”.

Red Tide Basics

  • Red Tides occur worldwide.
  • They aren’t always red, sometimes they’re purple, green and blue depending on what organism is creating the tide. However, in Florida typically the color is reddish, brown or even black.
  • Specific to Florida is the Karenia brevis (K. brevis) This is the organism that causes “Florida Red Tide”
  • This is a naturally occurring bloom that occurs EVERY YEAR along the gulf coast.
  • Red-tide
  • The toxins (brevetoxins)produced by the blooms, are transferred to everything from zooplankton to humans.
  • Florida Red Tide has been recorded dating as far back as to the early Spanish exploration.
  • Florida Red tide has been known to get caught in the Gulf Stream and been carried as far north as Delaware.
  • They can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, even up to a year, if conditions are perfect for growth.

Can I eat stuff caught during a Red Tide

The first thing you need to know is that cooking and/or freezing DOES NOT rid your seafood fare from the toxins absorbed by its body. Who knew? I thought cooking or freezing killed everything! And typically it does, but we’re talking about a TOXIN not a bacteria. (good to know).

That being said, most scientist say that most seafood is safe to eat during a Red Tide, with a few exceptions:

  • Bivalve mollusks such as hard clams, oysters and mussels are NOT safe to harvest during a Red Tide. Florida Harvesting Status http://shellfish.floridaaquaculture.com/seas/seas_statusmap.htm
  • Do not eat the tomalley (green stuff, hepatopancreas) from commonly referred to as shellfish like crabs, shrimp and lobsters
  • Fish caught during a Red Tide are actually okay to eat, AS LONG AS they are filleted.
    Apparently the toxin collects in the guts, not in the edible fillets.
  • There you have it. Maybe not everything you could know about Florida Red Tide, but everything you should know.

    Stay salty my friends!
    #HuntForRedOctober #RedTide

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