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Red Tide in Tampa Bay: Is It Safe to Rent a Boat?

red tide in Tampa Bay

Red tide has made big headlines over the past few weeks, and a lot of people are wondering what is/isn’t safe right now. To help you plan your trip on the water with the most information possible, we’re going to delve into what red tide is, red tide levels near Tierra Verde, and what you can expect as the situation develops.

But first, let’s start with a refresher on what red tide is and why it’s making headlines across the Tampa Bay region.

What Is Red Tide?

harmful algae bloom

Red tide is a normal part of Florida’s ecology and has been recorded in the area since at least the 1700s. Also known as harmful algae blooms, red tide happens when a certain algae, Karenia brevis, grows out of control in Florida’s waters. This can happen naturally, or it can be spurred on by harmful pollutants that run off into the water.

For local wildlife, red tide can be deadly. In 2018, an especially severe outbreak of red tide in Florida killed many manatees, dolphins, and fish living in the affected areas. Characterized by red waters (hence the name), red tide also has certain negative effects on humans, although it is not nearly so dangerous for us.

When exposed to high quantities of red tide, whether through standing near an algae bloom or swimming in the water, red tide can cause minor respiratory issues, including:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Sore throat

For most people, this is the worst effect that red tide will have. But for some people who have trouble breathing, like those with asthma, red tide may be more dangerous. For these individuals, we recommend staying away from any area with a known red tide bloom.

Alright, so now we’ve got a good understanding of what red tide is and why it’s worth tracking. So what’s the situation in Tampa Bay right now?

Tampa Bay Red Tide in 2021

The bad news is that red tide has been spotted in several locations across Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay region. But the good news is that so far, we don’t have reason to suspect that this year’s harmful algae bloom will be as bad as it was in 2018.

Red tide has been spotted in varying quantities in a number of locations, but it has not affected most locations where our boats can go, like Sand Dollar Key or Egmont Key. That said, red tide has been spotted in two areas that we know our boaters love: Pass-a-Grille and John’s Pass.

For Pass-a-Grille, red tide has only been detected in very low quantities, so we don’t recommend avoiding this popular spot unless you know that you already have breathing trouble. For most people though, low quantities of red tide aren’t enough to cause any sort of irritation in your throat or lungs.

John’s Pass, unfortunately, has shown moderate levels of harmful algae. We’re not forbidding boaters to go because there are not high levels of red tide in the waters, but we are letting boaters know that they may experience some irritation if they choose to go to John’s Pass. If you have a pre-existing breathing issue, we would recommend that you avoid John’s Pass until red tide is out of the area.

There is a silver lining for our customers, though. Red tide is currently forecasted to move north, away from Tierra Verde. While this is an important ecological issue that should be monitored wherever it goes, we are expecting it to move away from us and leave our waters clean, clear, and ready for boating.

Keeping an Eye on Red Tide

The situation with red tide is developing, and we’re keeping a very close eye on it so that we can help keep our boaters safe. If you ever want an update on where red tide is, just give us a call! Our crew is very knowledgeable, and we’ll be happy to give you the latest update on red tide in the area.

Ready to book your next adventure on the water? You can book your boat or jet ski rental online, call our crew at (727) 867-0077, or you can email us at