Returning winter residents are getting the slight taste of red tide in the air.

“I’m hearing people are experiencing slight irritations,” said Damian Ochab, president of the South Manasota/Sandpiper Key Association.

“It all depends upon which way the wind blows,” Ochab said.

It's the same in Venice. With offshore winds from the east, the air is fine, but an onshore wind from the west can bring with it the red tide stench.

Fortunately, red tide is milder, much milder, now than it had been throughout the summer months.

While red tide algae — Karenia brevis — is natural to the Gulf, concentrations of 100,000 cells or more per liter of water can result in respiratory irritations and ailments in humans, as well as leading to fish kills, the deaths of sea turtles and marine mammals.

When the cell counts reach a million or more per liter of water — like they did persistently this summer from Pinellas south to Collier County — red tide blooms can stain the waters a reddish brown and permeate the air with a horrific stench. Red tide this summer wreaked havoc not only with people and marine life, but also with the local economy.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission researchers have been tracking the present bloom since a year ago November.

Ochab’s report on red tide corresponds to recent reports from the FWC at myfwc.com and Mote Marine Laboratory Daily Beach Conditions at visitbeaches.org.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, with the winds blowing out of the west, Mote reported slight to moderate respiratory irritations on most Gulf beaches from Siesta Key in Sarasota south to Captiva Island in Lee County.

The FWC posts recent results of water sampling online. According to its reports Wednesday, researchers reported low counts, less than 100,000 cells per liter, to medium counts, 100,000 or more cells, in water samples taken Monday throughout Sarasota County.

The red tide stench appeared to clear out of Manasota Key Wednesday, according to the report. Very low levels were reported in Venice, with none showing up at Brohard Beach in a test taken on Dec. 3. At the North Jetty and Nokomis Beach medium levels were detected.

Medium counts were detected Monday in a water sample from Englewood Beach.

To learn more about red tide algae, visit myfwc.com.

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