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.
- 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!