A large red tide bloom, reported in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune to be about 12 miles long and six miles wide, is afflicting the Southwest Florida coastline, including Gasparilla Island, and killing fish.
Small dead fish were found off the beaches at the Boca Grande Club and elsewhere on Gasparilla Island this week.
September and October are the most common months for red tide blooms caused by toxic algae. Last year, Gasparilla Island was also afflicted.
Red tide occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico when algae accumulates in large numbers, creating a bloom toxic to marine life.
The bloom's toxins also can become airborne, causing significant breathing problems for people with asthma or other respiratory diseases. The toxins also cause healthy people to cough or sniffle.
Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of South Florida and the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are monitoring the bloom to track its dimensions and location.
Scientists will continue to take water samples along the coast this week, concentrating on Charlotte Harbor.