Red Tide: Is Florida seafood safe to eat?

Workers clean up thousands of small fish that washed onto North Redington Beach on Tuesday as a result of the Red Tide bloom afflicting the Gulf. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TIMES]
Workers clean up thousands of small fish that washed onto North Redington Beach on Tuesday as a result of the Red Tide bloom afflicting the Gulf. [SCOTT KEELER | TIMES]
Published September 12 2018
Updated September 13 2018

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 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.

RELATED: VIDEO: How is red tide affecting local hotels and tourists?

Go to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Aquaculture page at freshfromflorida.com to determine if harvesting is permitted in an area. Commercially grown clams and oysters in Florida are highly regulated by the state.

Crabs, shrimp, scallops and lobsters, on the other hand, are not affected by the red tide organism and are fine to eat.

If you’re not sure where your food is coming from, ask your server for more information about the source.

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