REDINGTON SHORES, Fla. (WFLA) – As red tide continues to impact Pinellas County beaches, animals are getting sick and dying. But there is hope, as county officials said the effects of the bloom are getting less severe.
The big question now – will that trend continue?
“We don’t know. That’s why we continue to monitor and continue to be out there assessing conditions,” Pinellas County Public Works Director Kelli Hammer Levy said when asked what’s next.
Hammer Levy went on to say that due to the algae blooming under certain biological and chemical conditions, predicting what will happen next is much harder than tracking where a hurricane might go.
To best predict where the algae bloom will move next, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission collaborates with the University of South Florida to update an online tool, the Ocean Circulation Model.
Hammer Levy said you can help prevent future red tide blooms by paying attention to what is going into your neighborhood storm drains. She said these storm drains are directly linked to red tide because algae growth is dependent on nutrients in the water.
“That means fertilizer, grass clippings and dog waste. If it’s on the ground and not picked up, it ends up in our waterways. So every single person, we all can do a little better there,” she said.
“We’re seeing less high concentrations [of red tide] in Pinellas County, that’s what we’ve seen over the last 24 hours,” Hammer Levy added. “We still have medium concentrations in some areas.”
There are 35 miles of beaches in Pinellas County but not all are impacted by red tide in the same way. Hammer Levy said those areas seeing medium red tide concentrations, as of Wednesday, include Honeymoon Island, Clearwater, Indian Rocks and Dunedin.
Since Florida is a tourism-based economy, some are worried about red tide keeping visitors at bay.
“We did receive an update from our partners at Visit St. Pete/Clearwater and, so far, everything is looking good. Numbers are still up way higher than 2019,” Hammer Levy said.
8 On Your Side spoke with Montanna Minor, who was vacationing from Kentucky on Wednesday. Minor said red tide isn’t ruining her family’s Indian Shores beach trip.
“We haven’t really smelled anything. There’s a pufferfish we got a picture of, kind of cool to see him up on shore,” Minor said.
But Holley Short with Audubon Florida said red tide is a food chain issue and is having a ruinous impact on birds.
“Birds sick from red tide are lethargic, can’t stand, wobbly when they do,” she said. “They are not acting normal.”
Short said, right now, there are groups of Black Skimmers nesting on Clearwater, Indian Shores and St. Pete beaches. She said these specific birds are a state-threatened species.
“They’re having a difficult time finding a place to nest so when they already have those issues, the impacts of red tide are just even more devastating,” Short said.
Short said you can help by reporting any birds you see acting strange to bird rehab facilities like the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary and Florida Fish and Wildlife so the professionals can step in to help.
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.