Researchers watch for spread of red tide to Pinellas beaches

There are no signs of red tide coming to an end as it continues to kill marine life and harm beach-goers. It's causing issues along southwestern Florida's Gulf Coast and researchers say it could move to Pinellas County.

Depending on the direction of the wind and the ocean current, the red tide algae bloom could make its way up the coast. Typically, the ocean current travels north to south, but researchers say if winds are strong enough, it could reverse.

Early indications show the spread may already be happening. Dozens of dead fish littered the Siesta Key coastline Thursday as the red tide algae bloom inched north, claiming the lives of dolphins, sea turtles, manatees and even a whale shark.

Dr. Richard Pierce, a scientist with Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, says it's the worst he's seen in over a decade.

"The red tide is very high in certain areas," Dr. Pierce said. "It may be very high for a day or a week or a couple weeks, but generally it will move on."

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The red tide has yet to reach beaches in Pinellas County, but as Dr. Piece explained, that could change depending on the wind and the ocean current.

"The direction of the wind will have an effect on whether it moves up the coast or down the coast," Dr. Pierce explained. "We have the longshore current, which is generally from north to south, but depending on the winds it can be going back north and there's actually some indication that that could be happening."

EARLIER: Mote scientists track ongoing red tide bloom

Research shows red tide can move up and down the coast in just a matter of days.

Dr. Pierce is currently testing ozone in a prototype study as a way to reduce the amount of red tide but warns getting rid of the algae bloom could also mean killing off other marine organisms.

"We have to remember this is a naturally occurring organism," Dr. Pierce continued. "It's part of the natural ecosystem. We have to be careful that what we do doesn't make things worse."

Samples taken in the Gulf show red tide cells are present off Pinellas County, but in low concentrations, which have not resulted in a bloom.

If you come across it, be sure to report to Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.