DESTIN — The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission have teamed up locally to research red tide and its cause.

A local nonprofit that promotes healthy waterways, the CBA will collect monthly samples from seven sites in the Choctawhatchee Bay and send them to the FWC Research Institute, where they will be tested for red tide.

“We had already been working with the FWC Research Institute to collect samples" to check for red tide, said Brandy Foley, monitoring coordinator for the CBA. “We decided it would be beneficial for everyone to have some sort of data on red tide in this area for the long term instead of just on incidental fish kills.”

Red tide is the name given to high concentrations of the harmful marine algae Karenia brevis. It can deplete oxygen in the water and irritate people’s noses, throats and eyes. Little is known about what causes the algae to bloom.

Foley said there were some issues with red tide in the gulf just before Hurricane Michael hit on Oct. 10, 2018. After the Category 4 storm, the CBA also started to see fish kills in the bay.

“I’m not sure if this is true or not, but I feel like once Michael blew in, it kind of pushed in some of that red algae into the bay and then we were seeing fish kills,” Foley said. “We just wanna have more information on the red tide or if it even is red tide that’s killing the fish.”

The results from the testing right after Hurricane Michael neither confirmed nor denied that red tide caused the fish kills in the bay. Other factors, such as low dissolved oxygen, can also cause fish to die, according to Foley.

“What we saw last fall was the largest fish kill that we’ve seen in the bay, but we’re not sure if it was directly caused by red tide,” she said.

Foley said the algae historically begins in the Gulf of Mexico near Southwest Florida before spreading up the west coast.

The most recent red tide problem in Northwest Florida seemed to be an isolated event, baffling researchers.

“They didn’t see it in the Big Bend area (Tallahassee) last fall, so it seemed to be more isolated to this northwest region,” Foley said.

Once the FWCRI receives the water samples and performs the testing, the results will be posted on an interactive map on the FWC website www.myfwc.com