MacDill monitors red tide

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joshua Hastings
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

If you have recently walked along MacDill’s shoreline, you may have come across more deceased marine life in the bay than normal.

Red tide, which is a bloom of red-colored algae, has made its way to the waters surrounding base, affecting fish and other marine animals.

In the Tampa Bay area, red tide is most common during late spring through early fall when water temperatures are warmest and storm water runoff is highest. There are many variants of red tide, not all of which are harmful. In Florida, the classification of red tide is referred to as Karenia brevis.

K. brevis is a harmful form of red tide caused by a plant-like plankton. K. brevis, along with other variants of red tide, find their way to bodies of water with excess nitrogen which they feed off of. Upwelling brings the algae to the surface, and then winds and tides brings it closer to shore.

Red tide produces a neurotoxin that causes fish’s gills to stop functioning. Other marine life in the bay such as manatees, dolphins and sea turtles can develop respiratory complications from the algae and even die.

The 6th Medical Group (MDG) and 6th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) Environmental Element monitors red tide and other natural occurrences on base.

According to the 6th MDG, red tide can affect people as well as marine life. Complications from the algae are worse in people with asthma, emphysema, bronchitis or any chronic lung disease.

The 6th MDG recommends that you stay away from affected areas, even if you don’t have existing respiratory issues. Red tide can cause irritation of your eyes, nose and throat. If you do come in contact with red tide, you should wash off with soap and water.

The 6th CES Environmental Element states that there are steps that everyone can take in helping reduce the severity of blooms. They encourage using minimal fertilizers on your lawn and garden and only using them during the times of the year when allowed. Excess nitrogen from your lawn or garden often washes into storm drains which end up in rivers or in the bay.

Another counterbalance to red tide is promoting marine habitat restoration. The addition of more seagrass and oysters in the bay would increase filtration of excess nutrients in the water which the algae feeds off of. This would aid in reducing the size and severity of red tide.

To stay up to date on red tide levels in Florida, you can visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website at

You can also visit the Florida Department of Health website at to view current health advisories and health impact updates in response to red tide.