Tests confirm red tide along Brevard County beaches

At Papagallo's in Satellite Beach, there's outdoor dining with an ocean breeze, but for two days, cough-inducing red tide in the air has emptied the chairs.

“It's gonna affect you when you have outside dining and nobody wants to sit outside,” said David Rich, owner of Papagallo’s. “There's 55 seats out here that are gonna sit empty."

Now, Brevard County officials are confirming what local businesses and residents in Satellite Beach already know: there's high levels of red tide in the water. On Tuesday, the county’s Department of Natural Resources sampled the water for concentrations of red tide, or Karenia brevis.

Preliminary results show how many cells per liter were found in the water samples:

  • Satellite Beach - Pelican Beach Park - high levels - 1.35 million 
  • Indialantic - 7th Ave and Wave Crest Ave - medium levels - 600,450
  • Melbourne Beach - Spessard Holland South - medium levels - 312,000 
  • Melbourne Beach - Coconut Point Park - medium levels - 126,000 
  • Cocoa Beach - 15th Ave - background levels

Over on the west coast of Florida, red tide algae has left tourist related businesses in ruins. Scientists believe ocean currents swept the red tide around the Florida peninsula to the east coast. But they say it's not as nearly as concentrated in Brevard County thanks to cooler Atlantic waters and strong currents that disperse the cells.

“And the good part about it is it won't last that long,” said Bill Yerkes, owner of Balsa Bill’s Surf Shop in Satellite Beach, who adds the 2007 red tide outbreak in Brevard County only lasted a few days. “It won't be here forever."

Businesses and residents here hope this will be the same. But dead fish are washing ashore, and throats are still stinging-- meaning businesses are bracing.

“We have to be pro active and know what's going on,” said Bonnie King, interim director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism. 

The local tourism office is preparing one page handouts on red tide called a sheeter for businesses to give their customers.

“The one sheeter would be all the information that you need to know about what red tide is, what safety precautions you need to take." 

The Health Department is also working on a notification, and Florida Fish and Wildlife says people suffering from respiratory issues should check red tide levels before going to the beach.