ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – As hundreds of dead fish wash up on shore from red tide, cleanup is underway in Pinellas County.
On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis held a roundtable in St. Petersburg to address this issue. The discussion included scientists and business leaders discussing the impacts of red tide on the environment and our economy.
“I think we have some of the best in the business looking into and researching these issues and obviously we put our money where our mouth is by devoting these resources,” said Gov. DeSantis.
DeSantis said $4.8 million has been poured into the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force and Center for Red Tide Research every year since 2019 to track, detect and mitigate red tide.
“When you hear red tide right away it’s like [people say] ‘Oh the beaches are closed,’ and that’s not the case! Absolutely not the case,” said Marty Harrity, co-owner of Doc Ford’s.
Local businesses said communication is key that it’s not at all the beaches that are impacted.
“In terms of what we’re seeing this is not [as bad as] 2018, we [just see] some localized [red tide patches,]” said DeSantis.
According to Florida Fish and Wildlife’s latest data collection, there’s a high red tide concentration at Indian Shores and in Boca Ciega Bay.
While there are medium concentrations in Clearwater and in parts of the Tampa Bay.
Mote Marine Laboratory CEO & President Dr. Michael Crosby said they’re looking at ways to mitigate the red tide with clay technology, UV lights, and other forms of algae.
“We can predict a hurricane much more easily than we can forecast red tide,” Dr. Michael Crosby said.
According to predictions from USF’s Ocean Circulation Group forecasting tool, they believe the red tide is headed north. But scientists at Thursday’s meeting said there’s no way to be certain because the wind and water currents could change everything.
Some are still speculating about red tide’s correlation with the Piney Point spill.
“I don’t think you can make a definitive cause and effect relationship at this point but I can say we all understand that increased nutrient delivery to our coastal waters can exasperate these blooms,” said Thomas Frazer, USF Professor and Dean of the College of Marine Science.
“The cause and effect with land-based sources of nutrients causing red tide is not the smoking gun we need to point at,” Dr. Crosby.
Governor DeSantis said he will hold HRK Landings, the owner of the embattled Piney Point gypsum stack accountable for the spill.
“Their mismanagement was a clear and present danger to life and people surrounding that area,” Gov. DeSantis.
To predict where the algae bloom will move next, FWC collaborates with USF to update an online tool, the Ocean Circulation Model.
For more information on red tide in Pinellas County, visit the health department’s website.
Mote Marine Aquarium also has an interactive site where you can help notify others when you see dead fish near you.