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Red Tide Present in Walton, Okaloosa Counties

Credit Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Red tide is present in low-to-medium concentrations in Okaloosa and Walton counties.

Oct. 8 Update: Red tide blooms are still present in Walton, Bay and Gulf counties. In Walton County, there is a medium concentration of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis.  According to the latest update from FWC, there is a very low presence of red tide in Okaloosa County. 

Red tide Blooms have popped up in Walton and Okaloosa Counties according to the latest update from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). 

On Oct. 3, FWC released a report that shows a low-to-medium concentration of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, in Okaloosa and Walton counties. 

In Northwest Florida, red tide was observed in or offshore of Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, and Pasco counties with up to "medium" concentrations in Bay County and offshore in Walton County. Samples were collected between Sept. 26 and Sept. 30. 

A red tide bloom has also occurred on Florida's East Coast for the first time this past week. 

Kelly Richmond, a spokesperson for FWC, said the state agency checks for red tide all year-round. Blooms typically occur in the late summer and early fall and can persist through winter and early spring. 

"We've had reports of red tide in Southwest Florida for the past 12 months, and it's started popping up in Northwest Florida in the last month," she added. 

In the past month, FWC has received more than 200 reports related to red tide and fish kills. You can report a fish kill by calling 1-800-636-0511. 

Volunteers, staff and partnering agencies help collect water samples on a regular basis.  

"It takes a lot of manpower," said Richmond. "This is the first time since fall of 2007 when the three different coasts (southwest, northwest, and east) have had a presence of red tide."

South Walton Fire District Beach Safety Director David Vaughan said the agency received several calls in regards to red tide in the past few days which prompted them to post some information on their Facebook page. 

"We've had some people call asking if it's gotten to us, some have reported respiratory distress," Vaughan said. 

Northwest Florida beaches are still safe for swimming and fishing, Richmond said. Individuals with severe or chronic respiratory symptoms should use caution. Richmond also advises keeping pets away from any foam or dead fish that may accumulate from the red tide.

"For most people, it's a matter of using your best judgment," she said. 

FWC releases red tide reports every Wednesday and Friday. For more information, visit myfwc.com/research/redtide/statewide

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.