Some beaches along the east coast of Florida were closed until further notice on Wednesday after the state Department of Health confirmed the presence of red tide.
The beaches included most of those in Indian River County as well as the City of Vero Beach, with the exception of Round Island Beach Park, the Florida Department of Health said in a statement.
Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed moderate to high levels of red tide at beaches, including those in Vero Beach City and Sebastian Inlet State Park Beach, according to ABC News affiliate WPBF.
Red tide is the name given to naturally occurring algal blooms that normally occur on Florida’s Gulf Coast. During bloom, they produce toxins that can kill fish and make shellfish dangerous to eat, according to the National Ocean Service.
Residents and beachgoers at Jaycee Park in Vero Beach noticed dead fish washing ashore as early as Monday, according to WPBF. On Tuesday, lifeguards could be seen wearing masks as they removed the fish from the beach.
Officials warned people not to eat any of the dead fish and to be careful when consuming any fish caught from the southeast coast of Florida, as well as any shellfish caught within the region.
Vero Beach City Manager James O’Connor told WPFB on Tuesday that city workers would rope off beach access on Wednesday morning in order to deter beachgoers from getting near the water.
“We’ll probably put yellow tape up where you can’t go down of the boardwalks on to the beach itself to try to show people, to discourage them,” he said.
The DOH also advised people with respiratory issues, such as asthma, to stay away from the beaches for the next two to 10 days, as exposure to red tide is also associated with respiratory symptoms in humans, including throat irritation and cough.
In its statement, the DOH said: “Protect your family and pets by staying away from affected areas until the blooms move further offshore or go away.”