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Harmful Algal Blooms reported in Florida Panhandle

Posted at 6:15 PM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 18:15:20-04

STEINHATCHEE, Fla. (WTXL) — It's a problem that typically happens well south of the region. Now, reports show coastal areas in the Panhandle are dealing with Red Tide.

Harmful Algal Blooms have been reported near the coastal areas of Walton and Bay County, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

"These toxins go into the food web or into the atmosphere and create problems for the food chain as well as respiratory issues for humans if it's close enough to the shore," said Sven Kranz, associate professor at Florida State University.

He studies phytoplankton — organisms that float across the ocean surface. It's a vital food source for fish and other creatures in the ocean. Some phytoplanktons however produce biotoxins that kill marine life.

Harmful Algal Blooms have been reported for some time in Florida — even as early as the 1500s according to Kranz. What is new about Harmful Algal Blooms is its presence in the Panhandle — including in Bay and Walton Counties. One reason might have to do with storms.

"There have been within the last year storms..connections with storms coming in from the south changing the pre-welling currents."

Something that will take time and funding for scientists to study and understand.

"We have to understand how Karenia [brevis] is coming up there and potentially also see if in the future they might be maintained."

Heavy rain from storms on land is also feeding red tides as water carries fertilizer from farms and lawns into the Gulf of Mexico.

As of now, there are no harmful algal blooms along the Big Bend Coast according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.