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High concentrations of red tide algae continue to kill fish in Collier, Lee

Signs indicate the presence of red tide on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, at Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has reported that red tide persists in Southwest Florida.

Red tide continues to haunt the beaches of Collier and Lee counties as fish kills washed ashore throughout the week.

The microscopic algae that cause red tide were found in samples collected along the coastline from just about every corner of the two counties, but were at their highest, and most harmful, concentrations in northern Collier and southern Lee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported Friday.

Karenia brevis, the saltwater red tide alga, blooms under the right conditions between 10 and 40 miles offshore, according to the FWC. When the algae die in large concentrations they release toxins that shut off the central nervous systems in fish and some seabirds. The wind and the current carry the toxins to shore, causing coughing and irritation among beachgoers.

Red tide can cause serious illness to people who have respiratory problems, such as emphysema or asthma, according to the FWC.

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It's unclear how long the bloom will last. The red tide has already been lingering in Southwest Florida for much of the spring. Karenia brevis blooms can dissipate in as short as a week or last longer than a year.

Over the past week, Karenia brevis was observed at background to high concentrations in 36 samples collected from or offshore of Lee County, and at very low to high concentrations in 15 samples collected from or offshore of Collier County, according to the report.

In Lee County, fish kills were reported at Bonita Beach, the Causeway Islands, Fort Myers Beach, Gasparilla Island, Lighthouse Beach, Lovers Key State Park, Lynn Hall Beach Park, Newton Park and Tarpon Bay.

In Collier, dead fish were found at Barefoot Beach, Clam Bay, Gordon Pass, Seagate Beach, South Marco Beach and Vanderbilt Beach.

Coughing and breathing problems were reported throughout the two counties, according to the report.

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