Red tide creeps into Pinellas County, impacting animals and humans

Pinellas County

INDIAN SHORES, Fla. (WFLA) – A red alert about red tide creeping into Pinellas County: The algae is blooming along certain beaches, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife officials.

The first thing many notice the second your toes hit the sand is the smell, then the cough and, finally, the dead fish.

“We walked half a mile and I counted three dozen fish,” said Nancy Dickerson, who was walking along Indian Shores Beach enjoying the day with her husband Ken.

In addition to being an eyesore, the Dickersons said red tide can be uncomfortable.

“You feel a little respiratory distress,” they said. “You just feel a little tickle in your throat.”

Samples recently taken by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission indicate the red tide algae bloom is at a moderate level on Indian Shores, Redington and Pass-A-Grille beaches.

“It does smell a little fishy, obviously dead fish cooking up in the sun,” said Michael Philpott, who was lounging on the beach.

FWC said it’s safe to swim as long as you don’t have serious respiratory issues. Common symptoms for most people include coughing, skin irritations and burning eyes.

Onshore, Erin Riesbeck stumbled upon another issue.

“I stepped on a dead catfish and one of the fins went through my foot,” said Riesbeck, pointing to her swollen right foot.

According to Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institutes Executive Director James Powell, red tide can cause a serious illness or be a death sentence for some marine life. However, it could be too soon to know this year’s impact

“A couple of years ago it was devastating, not only to wildlife, but the local economy as it really dried up tourism. We certainly hope that’s not the case this time,” Powell said.

According to FWC, three big factors determining if the red tide will continue to bloom include the biology of the water, the amount of sunlight and the direction the wind blows.

To get more detailed answers to common red tide questions go Florida Wish and Wildlife FAQ.

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