Is Red Tide affecting Florida's seafood?

Most of the catch comes from far offshore, but be sure to ask questions.

Red Tide, the toxic algal bloom that affects the Gulf Coast, can kill fish and other sea life. [Scott Keeler | Florida Beach Insider photo]
Red Tide, the toxic algal bloom that affects the Gulf Coast, can kill fish and other sea life. [Scott Keeler | Florida Beach Insider photo]

The major red tide algae bloom along the Gulf Coast is certainly smelly, and at worst may have negative health effects in exposed humans.

But what about locally-caught seafood? What’s safe to eat right now? With customers staying away from beachside resorts and restaurants en masse, diners may be equating the fish on their plates to the dead fish on shore.

However, most commercial gulf species, including snapper and grouper, are caught 20 miles out from the shore, meaning they are not at all impacted by the red tide.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, it is safe to eat local finfish as long as the fish are filleted before eaten. Although toxins may accumulate in the guts of fish, these areas are discarded when fish is filleted.

Shellfish like clams and oysters — what St. Petersburg seafood wholesaler Sammy’s Seafood co-owner Katie Sosa calls "the kidneys of the seashore, cleaning out all the impurities" — is perhaps another story. Recreational harvesting of clams, oysters and mussels is banned during red tide closures.

This article was originally published in the Tampa Bay Times on Sept. 12, 2018.

Laura Reiley has made the '80s girl progression from baby oil to SPF 50, but she's still a firm believer in vitamin D therapy. When she's not sticking her toes in the sand she is the food critic for the Tampa Bay Times.