Residents of southwest Florida have been experiencing burning eyes and respiratory issues due to the lingering effects of a red tide that has been present since October and recently intensified, causing over three tons of dead fish to wash up on the beaches in the past two weeks.
Unfortunately, there are no indications that the red tide will dissipate soon. The toxic algae bloom has become so severe that a local homeowners’ association has cancelled its upcoming annual “BeachFest” event after city officials and the Pinellas County Health Department warned that the red tide would still be present.
“Red Tide is currently present on the beach and is forecasted to remain in the area in the weeks to come,” the Indian Rocks Beach Homeowners Association said in a letter to the public. “It is unfortunate that it had to be canceled but it is the best decision in the interest of public health.”
The Karenia brevis organism responsible for causing red tide has been detected in 157 samples collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission along the state’s Gulf coast.
According to Carmine DeMilio, the operations manager for Manatee County Parks who oversees the red tide cleanup efforts, the situation has become more severe over the past two weeks.
DeMilio’s staff has been working to clean up the affected areas, using beach rake tractors to comb the sand and skimmer boats to collect dead fish from the water. So far, they have collected approximately 3.5 tons of dead fish.
“We start at 5 in the morning and go till around 11:30,” DeMilio told the Bradenton Herald. “By that time, the beachgoers are on the beach, and it’s hard to maneuver.”