FWC tests for red tide along Brevard County beaches

At the Canova Beach parking lot in Melbourne, people began coughing shortly after they got out of their cars.

 "You feel it,” said Brevardian Morgan Butcher, who was fishing from shore, “and it makes you start coughing" 

 "Classic symptoms of red tide,” said Mitchell Roffer, a retired oceanographer and Melbourne Beach resident.

Roffer says he took a photo of a brownish streak in the water near Vero Beach that he believes is red tide — harmful algae called Karenia brevis. When it blooms, Brevard’s Natural Resources says the naturally occurring algae can release toxins into the air and the water-- causing respiratory problems in people and death in many marine life.

“Blue fish, Spanish mackerel, mullet on the beach,” said Roffer. “It’s starting to stink up the place.”

In response to complaints, Brevard's Natural Resources sampled the ocean water at six south county beaches — three in Melbourne Beach, one in Satellite Beach, and another in Cocoa Beach.

 "The samples we just took, those will go off to Florida Fish and Wildlife,” said Terry Williamson, Lead Environmental Scientist did Brevard County’s Natural Resources Department,  “and they will verify Karenia brevis, is present and in what concentration, or cell count."

The county says the suspected red tide is patchy, and there are no widespread fish kills at this time. But retired oceanographer Mitchell Roffer says people with respiratory problems should use caution.

“It’s best to stay away from the places that have it,” said Roffer. “It's not every where, it's patchy, but we don't know what's going to happen in the next week or two.”

Williamson said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will get the water samples on Wednesday, but because of the recent abundance of red tide sampling on the west coast of Florida, he said he’s not sure when the results will be returned.