Red Tide is Real, But Pump the Breaks

There’s been some recent reporting about Red Tide in Florida and its oft-uncomfortable effects.  Yeah, Red Tide is a thing and it’s a pain but it’s not something that’s likely effecting your commercial seafood.

To put it in perspective we’ll quote, the now retired, Stephen Blount of Blount Fine Foods who penned a Red Tide explainer some fifteen years ago that is still relevant today. That narrative follows with some identified liberties:

Red Tide. Like Sean Connery’s factitious Red October, is a name that congers up images of danger silently lurking in the water. At first glance it would appear this threat is once again sneaking up on unsuspecting [beach goers in Florida] ready to ruin a [spring] full of satisfying shellfish.  But not unlike the Red October the broad threat levied by the Red Tide to everyday consumers is essentially fiction.

Red Tide is a fancy name for microscopic marine algae that turns ocean water a rusty red color. Scientists say this algae blooms after an unusually cold, wet winter or spring. Some are predicting a number of Red Tide outbreaks this summer. And while the algae that makes up the tide often contaminates shellfish, it is no reason for alarm. Stories about a scary scarlet tied creeping towards the coast leave consumers unnecessarily afraid to eat shellfish and do a disservice to [the men and women who work the waters from] New England [to Florida.]

Journalists and consumers alike need to be equipped with knowledge, not sensationalist stories that peddle fear rather than facts. Here are some Red Tide facts you might not have seen in print before:

1. No consumer has ever gotten sick from commercial shellfish as a result of Red Tide.

2. The shellfish you see in your local market is safe to eat even during a Red Tide.

3.Lobsters, shrimp and finfish are unaffected by Red Tide. 

Each coastal state conducts thorough monitoring for levels of Red Tide. Shellfish samples are collected … and are constantly evaluated. If high levels are found officials close that shellfish harvest area. Furthermore, rigorous testing of shellfish by government scientists ensures that those that reach the market are safe.

There is no question Red Tide damages the shellfish harvest but what damages the livelihood of fishers … is misinformation about the safe, healthy, products that do make it to market.

If you must promote unfounded fears, let’s have folks worry about Russian subs off the coast not clams.