Beachgoers will be wise to know which way the wind blows.
The toxic red tide algae is lying low in local Gulf waters. Depending upon wind direction, red tide could cause respiratory irritation this weekend.
For the first time this year, water samples from Sarasota County, including Venice and Manasota Key, showed low concentrations of the algae, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported Friday.
The samples collected Wednesday showed medium concentrations in Charlotte County, Englewood Beach and Stump Pass at the south end of Manasota Key, and in Gasparilla Pass near Placida.
Monday, a water sample also turned up medium concentrations of red tide in Boca Grande Pass.
The state posts its findings at myfwc.com, which also has information about red tide, and what to expect if you encounter it.
Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota posts its daily beach conditions on visitbeaches.org.
Mote reported people complaining about “moderate” respiratory irritations Wednesday on Manasota Beach. By Friday, someone at Venice Beach reported “slight” irritation. All other Sarasota County beaches appeared free of the effects of red tide. Mote doesn’t collect information from beaches in Charlotte or Lee counties.
The red tide algae, Karenia brevis, is naturally present in the Gulf in concentrations of less than a 1,000 cells per liter of water. But medium to high concentrations — those more than a million cells in a liter of water — can lead to coughing, respiratory irritation and fatigue, and other ailments in humans.
Intense red tide blooms are also known to kill marine life, including marine mammals.
The toxins are often released when winds and waves break up the cells.
An interactive map on habforecast.gcoos.org takes wind speeds and direction into account as it predicts the risk for respiratory irritations on Southwest Florida beaches. The predictions Friday varied due to the wind directions, but Saturday’s risk predictions were all listed as “very low” for Sarasota and Charlotte County beaches.
To learn more about red tide, visit myfwc.com.