Is there Red Tide at the Beach? - Sailors for the Sea

Is there Red Tide at the Beach?

 August 10, 2012  | By: Oceana

In certain conditions, red seaweed can collect on Newport, Rhode Island’s Easton’s Beach.

Whether it’s due to cloudy skies or poor surf conditions, there are a variety of reasons why you might cancel your beach day. But have you ever avoided the beach because of seaweed? For decades, residents and visitors in Newport, Rhode Island, have dealt with a variety of red seaweed (technically spermothamnion) that collects on some popular beaches throughout the summer, which locals commonly refer to as “red tide.” 

But is this the same “red tide” that we hear warnings about? 

The good news is that despite the red color, this is not that “red tide.”  The red tide that we hear about on the news is a harmful algal bloom that can produce toxic effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds. According to NOAA, harmful algal blooms have been reported in every coastal state and occur nearly every summer along Florida’s Gulf Coast. 

The bad news is that the red seaweed is still problematic. Aside from making the beach less pleasant, the red seaweed that grows in Rhode Island isn’t harmful by itself, but can still contribute to water quality issues. The greatest impacts are at beaches located in small coves where the shape of the coastline retains seaweed and prevents it from flushing out, such as Easton’s Beach in Newport and Second Beach in Middletown.

Red seaweed can irritate the gills of some fish, and trap bacteria, nitrates and phosphates from storm-water runoff, which can accelerate its growth.

Ways to Help

Our Green Boating Guide features a number of ways that you can reduce your impact on the marine environment. Following these practices can help reduce the levels of nitrates and phosphates in the water, which can help reduce the amount of red seaweed and harmful algal blooms. Download a free copy of our Green Boating Guide for more information!

Highlights from that list include:

  • Overboard Discharges: Do not discharge untreated sewage or blackwater in harbor areas or no-discharge zones.
  • Cleaning Products: Learn more about Green Cleaning Products that can be bought or made for your boat.
  • Bottom Paint: Switch to an environmentally friendly bottom paints.
  • Bottom Cleaning: Don’t clean your boat’s bottom in harbors and sensitive areas. If you trailer your boat, scrub your hull when leaving a body of water to prevent spread of invasive species.
  • Gray Water Reduction: In order to reduce runoff of phosphates and nitrates into your waters, use water-only wash downs. When you need a heavy-duty scrub use only the recommended amount of non-toxic cleaning products, which can alleviate the pressure on marine life.
  • Stormwater Pollution Prevention: Implement a storm water management system at your home or marina to reduce runoff.