Sea of sharks escape deadly red tide by hiding in Florida neighborhood


These spooked sharks are swimming with the fishes.

Hundreds of coastal sharks have recently sought sanctuary from a deadly red tide outbreak by hiding out in this residential Florida neighborhood’s canals.

The canals of Buttonwood Harbor, Florida have been teeming with a great diversity of sharks of late, according to residents, a bizarre sight for the area. Experts believe that the predatory fish are taking refuge in the waterways as the ones they usually call home are experiencing a toxic red tide outbreak. 

“This is an unnatural thing. These sharks are not here through their own choice,” Dr. Bob Hueter, chief scientist of ocean data organization Ocearch told Fox 13 Tampa Bay. “They are there because they are seeking refuge from red tide which could kill them.”

The red tide refers to harmful algae bloom that discolors water to become a red or brown hue and can affect the central nervous system of fish, possibly fatally, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “For people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, red tide can cause serious illness,” the Commission adds. 

Thousands of dead fish float in the Boca Ciega Bay located near the mouth of Madeira Beach on July 21, 2021 in Madeira Beach, Florida. Red tide, which is formed by a type of bacteria, has killed several tons of marine life in Florida so far this year.
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Experts, however, are worried that the sharks have packed the red tide-free canal so tightly they are having trouble breathing. 

“The reason why it’s concerning is if there’s not enough oxygen they will overexert themselves trying to get fresh water over their gills so they can exchange their CO2 for oxygen but with all those animals packed in that space oxygen is limiting,” senior Mote marine laboratory biologist Jack Morris told Fox 13. “If it goes long enough they will run out of food and energy and unfortunately some of them, if not all of them, will die.” 

Sharks are taking refuge from a deadly red tide in Florida’s Longboat Key canals.
FOX 13

Area residents, meanwhile, are in awe at the flurry of bonnethead, lemon and nurse sharks that have filled their local waterways, but also see it as a disturbing sign of the state of the environment. 

“Our mother ocean is not happy,” Buttonwood Harbor resident Janelle Branowner told The Post of seeing the assortment of shark species so close to home. “They normally live way out in the gulf. This red tide sucks.”

A bonnethead shark swimming in its natural habitat: the ocean.
Getty Images/iStockphoto


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