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Harmful Algal Blooms Effects on Florida Residents, Tourists, and Coastal Business Owners

Figure One: An image of a sea impacted by the algae Karenia brevis (

The state of Florida is a known tourist state. Florida is a sunny state that is the mecca area for visitations at the sunny beaches. Florida is a state that is surrounded by water (the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Straits of Florida); therefore, many Florida residents and coastal business owners are dependent on the coastal beaches and tourism as a source of income and recreational visits. However, the harmful algal bloom occurrences that impact coastlines affect Florida residents, tourists, and coastal business owners.

Harmful algal blooms (HABs), also known as red tide, occur yearly in Florida; HABs are algae that have overgrown and produce toxins that can harm humans and the environment. There are explanations in tables one and two that detail how humans are exposed to HABs and how the exposures impact their health. These algae are microscopic and form in different shapes and sizes, such as dinoflagellates; these algae swim in distinctive patterns. The toxins that are produced by these algae differentiate based on location and species type. HABs are a concern in Florida based on the human impacts; for instance, humans can become sick from consuming ocean species such as fish and shellfish that are filled with toxins produced by HABs. An example includes Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP), a syndrome associated with the consumption of shellfish exposed to Karenia Brevis that have concentrated brevetoxins. Karenia Brevis are a toxic dinoflagellate algae that is the most researched and termed the most harmful HAB for Florida. Additionally, it is called red tide due to its red color appearance; some HABS can appear impenetrable and brown colored and are termed brown tide.

Table One: How Humans Are Exposed to HAB

Studies have shown significant impacts on coastal businesses in sectors such as the lodging and restaurant industries when occurrences of red tide have been significant; examples include four events that occurred in 2018, 2006, and twice in 2005. Studies showed that during these HAB occurrences, counties in Florida that HABs impacted saw a decline in sales compared to counties that HABs did not significantly impact.

Although there are yearly HAB impacts in Florida, there are ways that Florida residents, tourists, and coastal businesses can monitor HAB impacts. An example is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) Harmful Algal Bloom Forecasting monitoring system. This system regularly updates the HABs impacts occurring in areas such as locations in Florida (Gulf of Mexico). Individuals can use this monitoring system to plan recreational activities and visits to the beach, anglers can use this system to prepare for delays or derails of fishing in areas impacted by HABs, and coastal business owners can financially plan for potential declines in sales.

Table Two: Human Health Impacts from Exposure to HABs

Based on past HAB occurrences in Florida, there is a need to continue researching, monitoring, and planning initiatives to prepare Florida residents, tourists, and coastal business owners for HABs occurrences in the future.

Photo Credits: Hall, D. (2020, February 19). What exactly is a red tide? Red Tide: What is the algae species Karenia brevis? Retrieved June 8, 2022, from

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