Campus cleaning up after wave of red tide

Sarasota County workers were cleaning up the Caples Campus shoreline and the lagoon at the north end of campus earlier this month, after an outbreak of red tide left hundreds of dead fish along the waterfront.

In a letter to the campus community, New College President Don O’Shea wrote, “I want to assure you that the New College campus is safe and that we are committed to ensuring the well-being of our entire campus community.”

“We made arrangements with Sarasota County for a clean-up Aug. 15-16 to remove the dead fish that have accumulated along the Caples Campus waterfront and the lagoon at the north end of campus. However, the red tide and its effects are expected to persist for some time, and the clean-up process will be ongoing,” he wrote.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in seven counties because of the outbreak’s effects. The Florida Department of Health has issued an advisory on red tide. The key points:

  • Symptoms from red tide include coughing, sneezing and teary eyes. For most people, symptoms are temporary. Wearing a particle filter mask (such as those used by painters) and using antihistamines can lessen the effects.
  • People with chronic respiratory problems like asthma should avoid red tide areas. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention.
  • Wind strength and direction will influence the effects. When winds are blowing inland, effects may be stronger. Keep windows closed and use air conditioning.
  • Most people can swim in red tide, but it can cause skin irritation and burning eyes. If your skin is easily irritated, avoid red tide water. If you do swim, wash off thoroughly with fresh water. Do not swim near dead fish.
  • If you walk on beaches affected by red tide, wear shoes to prevent puncture wounds.
  • If you bring a pet to the beach, be aware that red tide poses a risk and can affect animals that ingest algae, and rinse your pets with fresh water if they swim.
  • In addition, the New College Marine Biology program has provided the following information:
  • If you see a turtle, dolphin or manatee that is dead or in distress, call the stranding team at nearby Mote Marine Laboratory, which is trained to handle such cases. Do not try to help the animal yourself. The Mote stranding team hotline (24-hour pager) is 941-988-0212. For birds that are sick or injured, but not dead, call Save Our Seabirds, a local avian rescue organization, at 941-388-3010.

About red tide

Florida red tide is caused by higher-than-normal concentrations (called a bloom) of Karenia brevis, a microscopic algae that occurs naturally at low levels in the Gulf of Mexico. When these algae bloom, they can give water a red or rusty brown color, hence the name red tide. Blooms of K. brevis form offshore and are carried into coastal areas by winds and currents. Scientists do not fully understand the complex causes of these harmful algal blooms, but factors such as temperature, salinity, wind, currents, and nutrients from runoff are believed to affect the persistence and severity of a bloom once it has moved inshore.

Severe blooms, which have been documented to occur periodically in Florida since the mid-1900s, can last from a few weeks to more than a year. Their occurrence cannot currently be predicted, but wind and water current data can be used to forecast movements of a bloom once it has formed. K. brevis produces brevitoxins which affect the central nervous system of fish and other marine organisms, often resulting in large fish kills, but they may also impact or kill birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals. Wave action causes the algae to break apart and release brevitoxins into the air, which can cause respiratory irritation in humans.


Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre bay front campus is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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