Red Tide Concentrations Increasing Along South Padre Island
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Evidence of red tide along South Padre Island and the Lower Laguna Madre continues to mount, but airborne effects are not as bad as previously feared, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service marine expert.
“It’s a constantly changing situation, but at this point, we are seeing higher cell counts of the organism, a toxic algae, that leads to red tide,” said Tony Reisinger, an AgriLife Extension agent for coastal and marine resources with Texas Sea Grant in Cameron County.
Red tides occur naturally and are caused by high concentrations or blooms of microscopic algae called Karenia brevis, Reisinger said. The algae produce a toxin that can affect the central nervous systems of fish, birds, mammals and other animals. In high enough concentrations, it can cause water discoloration, making it appear red, green or brown.
“It’s not life-threatening for humans, but it can cause burning eyes, coughing, sneezing, skin irritation and respiratory problems,” he said. “Symptoms are temporary, but whenever a red tide alert is issued, it’s best for people with respiratory problems, especially asthmatics, and pets to just stay away. Even at low cell counts, red tide can become a problem in onshore winds or rough surf.”
Aerosol levels have only reached low to moderate levels, and an alert has not been issued for South Padre Island, Reisinger said. While tourism has fallen off at the resort, anglers continue to fish in the area.
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