SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — During the past week fish kills have been reported from Anna Maria Island down to Manasota Key.
Thousands of fish carcasses have crowded the shoreline and a fowl stench wafts through the air. It’s all because of red tide. An official with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says red tide blooms form offshore around this time of year. Red tide is an algae that can kill fish and cause respiratory problems for humans.
Lisa Moran flew down from Colorado early Monday morning to enjoy Manasota Beach, only to find tons of dead fish. “I have never seen this before,” Moran said.
She had never heard of red tide before. If she had known beforehand, she likely would’ve made different travel arrangements. “I don’t mind swimming in the water when the fish are alive. I can handle that, but when they’re dead, no,” Moran said.
“This is my favorite beach, usually … Now it’s so bad I can’t hardly stay,” she added.
FWC began receiving reports of local fish kills on Sept. 19. FWC officials say sewage spills could contribute to the growth of red tide. But, it’s unclear at this point if the Pinellas County spill contributed to this recent outbreak.
It’s unclear how long this outbreak will last. FWC is doing daily water tests.
FWC says it’s still safe to swim at the beach. However, red tide can cause skin irritation, so officials suggest you rinse off properly afterwards. In addition, people with chronic respiratory problems such as asthma and COPD could be more prone to coughing.
Cindy Ducklow has seen red tide outbreaks periodically over the years. It became too much for her. “I used to live about a block away from the beach, and we had to move to North Port, further away from the beach because my lungs could not handle it,” Ducklow said.
FWC also urges pet owners to be careful taking animals to the beach because they may be affected by the red tide. If you are at the beach with your pets, do not allow them to play with dead fish or foam that may accumulate. If your pet swims in the red tide, wash it as soon as possible. Most dogs lick themselves after swimming and will consume any toxins on their fur.
If you do spot a fish kill, contact Florida Fish and Wildlife. Find more information about red tide here. The red tide report is available here. It’s updated every Friday. In addition, information about beach conditions is available here.