NORTH NAPLES — A red tide has worsened this week along Collier County beaches and could pack a punch into the weekend, pollution monitors reported Friday.
The bloom of microscopic algae can release a toxin that kills marine life and causes watery eyes, coughing and a throat tickle. The county staff is warning people with asthma and emphysema to avoid the beaches.
Water samples collected Thursday showed red tide at very low levels on South Marco Beach, low levels at Naples Pier, Seagate and Vanderbilt Beach and at medium levels at Barefoot Beach, according to the county's Pollution Control and Prevention Department.
Satellite imagery indicates chlorophyll levels — a possible indication of red tide — range from elevated to very high along shore and extending about seven miles offshore.
As of Friday afternoon, the county hadn't received reports of respiratory irritation from beachgoers but had reports of dead fish on Vanderbilt Beach with more dead fish floating in the surf, pollution monitor Rhonda Watkins said.
"It's possible we'll have more washing in on the tide," Watkins said.
Naples environmental specialist Katie Laakkonen flipped the red tide signs at the city's beach ends Thursday to alert beachgoers that the algae bloom had arrived.
She said she didn't feel any effects from the red tide at the beach, but working Friday on Naples Bay was a different story, she said.
"I did feel it today in the bay," she said.
Beach rake machines will be on duty this weekend cleaning up any dead fish that wash ashore this weekend, Watkins said. More water samples will be taken Monday.
Winds are forecast to be from the north through the weekend, which might continue to push the bloom farther south, Watkins said.
Earlier this week, dead fish were found on Barefoot Beach and in some Marco Island canals, but monitors haven't gotten any new reports from those areas.
To report dead fish or red tide symptoms, call the county at 239-252-2502. Red tide updates are available on the county hot line at 239-252-2591 or go to www.colliergov.net/redtideupdate.