Healthy Beaches Hillsborough County
There are four important harmful algal blooms (HABs) that occur in Florida: Red Tide, Cyanobacteria, Saxitoxin (Associated Blooms), Ciguatera (Associated Blooms).
As the red tide blooms approach coastal areas, the breaking waves can cause the toxin to become mixed with sea spray. People in the coastal areas experiencing red tide blooms can experience varying degrees of eye, nose, and throat irritation similar to cold symptoms. When a person leaves the red tide area, the symptoms usually go away. People with severe or chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic lung disease are cautioned to avoid red tide areas.
Shellfish like the bivalve mollusks; clams, oysters, and coquinas that are harvested from red tide areas should not be eaten. These molluskan shellfish are filter feeders that can filter large amounts of the red tide algae from the water and concentrate the toxin producing algae in their gut. Other seafood also commonly called shellfish such as crabs, shrimp, and lobster can be eaten because they do not filter water and will not concentrate the toxin. Scallops can be eaten if only the scallop’s muscle is eaten, as is normally the case. Scallop stew, which would use the whole animal, should not be eaten.
Visit the Aquatic Toxins Program for more information