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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Photos of a ‘red tide’ in Yucatán were actually taken in Florida

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Red tides are often accompanied by massive die-offs of large amounts of marine life and are particularly tough on fishermen. Photo: Courtesy

Images of Yucatán’s coastline supposedly showing the arrival of a “red tide” have been debunked by specialists who say the photographs are actually taken in Florida.

The last red tide in Yucatán was in August 2015. The phenomenon occurs virtually every summer along the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Red tides are a concern because they affect not only public health and marine ecosystems, but also local and regional economies.

“The mistake was likely an honest one as polluted water can very much resemble a red tide in appearance,” said UNAM Oceanographer, Gabriela Jiménez.

But the news is not all good for Yucatán, as several beaches show signs of considerable pollution. 

Experts say that the poor state of the water is likely the result of runoff from nearby communities which has been aggravated by recent storms.

Earlier: Beach communities across Yucatán brace for an influx of tourists

The runoff of contaminated water to Yucatán’s beaches has long been a problem, as most communities do not possess any infrastructure to keep polluted water out of the ocean. 

Red Tides are different from “normal” pollution as they are caused by a harmful algal bloom that decomposes and uses up large amounts of oxygen, resulting in fish die-offs.

It is this algae bloom and a lack of oxygen that gives affected waters the red tint so dreaded by fishermen.

Red tides are thought to be caused by warm ocean surface temperatures, low salinity, high nutrient content, calm seas, and rain followed by sunny days during the summer months.

Efforts to clean up Yucatán’s waters are currently underway in a handful of coastal communities, including Progreso, where the local government has revamped its strategies in an effort to gain Blue Flag certification. 

For a beach or marina to have a Blue Flag, an exclusive world-renowned eco-certification, it needs to demonstrate high-quality environmental management and organize environmental education activities.

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