PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A massive red tide bloom off the Pinellas Coast has killed more than 17 tons of fish that contractors have collected since Friday, according to Pinellas environmental officials.
- High concentrations of red tide found in Treasure Island, Madeira Beach
- So far no large animals killed in area
- Still some Pinellas beaches seeing little to no effect
"There's a substantial amount of dead fish out there,” said Kelli Levy, Pinellas’ division director of environmental management. “We're going to do our best to harvest as much of that as we can but it is going to end up on the beach."
Levy said high concentrations of red tide were found in Treasure Island and Madeira Beach. Crews were out bagging dead fish from those beaches on Monday.
"That has been kind of a hot spot. That area of Madeira and Treasure Island,” said Levy. "On Treasure Island, there was a pretty substantial in-place kill. As the water changed colors, the fish just died in place and ended up on the beach."
Impact on tourism?
The CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, Robin Sollie, said it’s hard to gauge the impact on tourism because this is traditionally the slowest time of the year.
However, a beach vendor on Treasure Island was picking up his chairs and umbrellas during the noon hour. That vendor said he’s noticed a big drop in visitors over the past few days.
A Canadian tourist said the beaches and hotels are empty.
“It's just heartbreaking," said Jack Soren, from Toronto. "We were starting to think that we were the only ones staying in our hotel."
Fish kills in Pinellas
Levy said the first substantial fish kills from red tide in Pinellas County hit on Friday and got worse over the weekend as an on-shore wind developed.
"That is when things really changed and we started seeing fish kills from St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island and Madeira Beach, Redington Beach and again at Clearwater Beach on Saturday," she said. "On Sunday, we started to see things back off of Clearwater Beach. Things seemed to be improving in that area but on the south end it kind of marched north to Redington Shores and North Redington Beach."
Levy said they have gotten reports of a shark in John’s Pass that was behaving erratically and a dolphin in Treasure Island but so far no large animals have been killed in the area. Some birds have also been acting strange. Anyone who witnesses an animal in distress should immediately contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Some beaches still unaffected
Levy said there are still some Pinellas beaches where there’s little to no red tide detected.
"We're not seeing any red tide at Fort Desoto. It's looking gorgeous out there. Also, Fred Howard Park at the north end of the county in Tarpon Springs,” she said. “Clearwater Beach as well has been improving over the last few days and hopefully that trend continues on our northern beaches.”
Levy said there’s no way to know how long the massive bloom that stretches from Sarasota to Northern Pinellas County will last. Environmental officials are monitoring the water seven days a week.