Toxic algae spreads, threatening Florida tourism

Pop Goes The News – With winter approaching, this is a news story tourism officials in South Florida don’t want Canadians to see.

A growing number of beaches on the Atlantic coast are being closed due to a significant concentration of algae linked to “red tide.”

Testing for the toxic algae has been going on since beachgoers in Palm Beach County last weekend complained about respiratory, eye and skin irritation. The algae also kills fish, sea turtles and birds. 

On Thursday, Miami-Dade officials closed all public beaches north of Haulover Park, which is located only 16 km north of the popular South Beach area.

“We are taking this proactive step to ensure our residents and visitors are not affected as we collect samples in other areas for state testing,” tweeted Miami-Dade mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “We will continue to seek guidance from the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and take precautionary measures as needed.”

Testing was done off Miami Beach and Key Biscayne but officials found only “small” concentrations. Those beaches remain open but people with respiratory problems are being advised to avoid them.

On local news stations, the “red tide” is a top story.

Red tide depletes oxygen in coastal waters and releases harmful toxins. It is rare on the Atlantic side but has plagued Florida’s Gulf Coast, particular Manatee County and Sarasota. In August, Florida governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration posts twice-weekly red tide forecasts that travellers are advised to check prior to hitting the beach.