We Answer Your Questions About the Health & Safety of Red Tide
Q: Is it safe to swim during red tide?
A: No, swimming around red tide can cause skin irritation, rashes, burning sensations, and sore eyes.
Q: Does red tide cause breathing problems?
A: Yes, some people may experience coughing, sneezing, tearing, and an itchy throat when the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, is present and onshore winds blow. People with severe or chronic respiratory conditions like emphysema or asthma are advised to avoid red tide areas.
Q: Can shellfish bought during red tide be eaten?
A: Generally shellfish purchased from stores or served in restaurants are safe to eat during a red tide bloom. The government monitors these shellfish for safety and tests them for red tide toxins before being sold.
Q: Can recreational harvested shellfish be eaten during red tide?
A: No, recreational harvesting of bivalve mollusks like hard clams, oysters, and mussels is prohibited during red tide closures. These organisms should not be eaten during any closure of a shellfish harvesting area. However, other shellfish like crabs, shrimp, and lobsters are not affected by the red tide organism and can be safely consumed. It is important to avoid consuming the tomalley (green stuff, hepatopancreas). Locally harvested scallops from open scallop harvesting areas are safe to eat during scallop season, but only the muscle of the scallop should be consumed, not the whole animal. Additionally, illegally harvested and unregulated shellfish are dangerous and should never be consumed.
Q: Is it safe to eat finfish caught during red tide?
A: Yes, it is safe to eat local finfish as long as they are filleted before consumption. Toxins may accumulate in the guts of fish, but when the fish are filleted, these areas are removed. However, it is not advisable to eat dead or distressed animals, especially in a red tide area, as the cause of their unusual behavior or death cannot be determined with certainty.
Q: Can cooking or freezing seafood remove red tide toxin?
A: No, cooking or freezing seafood does not eliminate the red tide toxin. Additionally, the toxin cannot be detected through visual inspection or taste.