Red tide could recede in Tampa Bay but worsen off Pinellas beaches
ST. PETERSBURG – The latest red tide watch shows some improvement in Tampa Bay, officials say, but conditions are worsening for several beaches in the Gulf.
“Our aerial imagery shows that the bloom has kind of transported out of the mouth over the last few days. In the bay… it’s day and night from a week ago, ”said Eric Sutton, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “However, the bloom has now moved, it is off the coast and has spread, and we have seen high concentrations of blooms from Longboat Key all the way to Dunedin and this area.”
The red tide is “quite extensive” off the beaches, Sutton told the Tampa Bay Times Tuesday. It is atypical for a toxic bloom to spread as far in the bay as this month, but more common in the gulf. In some places on the west coast, Sutton said, the red tide has reached the beach, while in other places it can drift about a mile offshore. The bloom is not an uninterrupted block of algae but pockets that move according to winds, tides and other environmental factors.
Toxic algae have devastated the waters around Tampa Bay, killing huge numbers of fish and other marine life. Sutton said the state had found several manatees – likely numbered in single digits – who appear to have been affected by the red tide, although the cause of their deaths is not confirmed until researchers study the animals’ bodies further. .
It has been a record year for manatee deaths, with 850 deaths as of July 9, according to the state. This is largely attributed to the loss of seagrass on the east coast, where manatees starved to death around the wintering areas along their migration route to the Atlantic. Now Red Tide threatens them on the West Coast.
The last time Florida saw a bloom like this, so far out in Tampa Bay at this time of summer, was in 1971, according to a Conservation Commission researcher.
As of Monday, Pinellas County had picked up more than 1,270 tons of dead marine life and debris. Workers found dead fish on the beaches of Indian Shores to the south. On Tuesday, they saw a large fish kill near Dunedin Causeway, county spokesman Tony Fabrizio said.
Flowering appears to have been carried out out of the bay by standard forces, including currents and wind, Sutton said. The persistent rains have helped cool the waters of Tampa Bay, he said, lowering salinity levels that were high weeks ago. The salinity may have made the estuary suitable for the growth of the organism behind the red tide.
But the algae have not completely left the area, and scientists cannot be sure the blooms will continue to decline in the bay.
“The trend seems to be on the downside,” Sutton said, “but we’re not out of the woods.”
St. Petersburg officials and environmental organizations have repeatedly called on Governor Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency. Earlier this week, the state agreed to provide Pinellas with $ 2.1 million for cleanup costs incurred by the county and city of St. Petersburg.
The governor’s office said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has a fund to use in the response, so there is no need to trigger a state of emergency, which happened during a bad outbreak of red tide in 2018.
The agency’s acting secretary, Shawn Hamilton, said money is available specifically to help reimburse local governments for the cost of cleaning up dead fish. He said the agency has enough funds to exceed the aid it provided in 2018.
Pinellas alone collected around 1,800 tonnes of dead marine life and debris that year.
“These are the types of levels that we are prepared to support if necessary,” Hamilton said.
If the area suffers further damage, such as business bankruptcy due to a decline in tourism, Hamilton said the state tourism agency Visit Florida and the Department of Economic Opportunity, which administers the programs. state and federal aid, could step in to help.
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Red tide blanket
Tampa Bay has questions about the red tide. Here are some answers.
Is It Safe To Eat Seafood? Here’s how the red tide is affecting what you eat.
Can I go fishing? The state restricts saltwater fishing.
Pointe Piney: Environmental disaster could fuel Red Tide.
Resources of the Red Tide
• The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a website that tracks where the red tide is detected.
• Florida Poison Control Centers have a free 24/7 hotline to report illnesses, including exposure to red tide: 1-800-222-1222
• To report dead fish for cleaning up in Tampa Bay, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-800-636-0511 or complete a Fish Mortality Report online.
• In St. Petersburg, call the Mayor’s Action Center at 727-893-7111 or use the St. Petersburg seeclickfix website.
• Visit St. Pete / Clearwater, the County Tourism Wing, operates an online beach dashboard at www.beachesupdate.com.
How to stay safe near water
• Do not swim around dead fish.
• Those with chronic breathing problems should be careful and stay away from places where there is a red tide bloom. Leave if you think the red tide is affecting you.
• Do not harvest or eat shellfish or distressed and dead fish from the area. Healthy fish fillets should be lifted with clean water and the entrails discarded.
• Pet owners should keep their pets away from water and dead fish.
• Residents living near the beach should close their windows and run air conditioners with appropriate filters.
• Bathers can protect themselves by wearing masks.
Source: Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County