Red tide creeping south, high levels affecting Sarasota and Manatee counties

LONGBOAT KEY, Fla. (WFLA) – Red tide has been plaguing Tampa Bay and parts of Pinellas County for weeks. Now the harmful algal bloom is heading south.

The latest red tide sample map from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows high concentrations of red tide from Anna Maria Island to Turtle Beach on Siesta Key.

Sarasota County Health Department officials posted red tide warning signs at all 16 beaches in the county.

“Red tide causes respiratory irritation, so as soon as we see the cell count increase, we are concerned and want to make sure the community understands that it can cause cold-like symptoms or even flu-like symptoms.” , said Steve. Loonie with DOH Sarasota. “The great thing is that if you remove yourself from the area, these symptoms usually go away very quickly,” he continued.

Further north on Longboat Key, dead fish begin to wash up on shore. City officials tell 8 On Your Side they haven’t seen a large accumulation of dead fish so far.

Local restaurants along Sarasota Bay, however, say the fish kills are already impacting business. One of the chefs at Mar Vista restaurant tells 8 On Your Side that the shoreline was covered in hundreds of pounds of dead fish. The largest was a 38 inch snooker.

Photo courtesy: Michael Hall

“As the sun rises and it gets hotter throughout the day, the smell gets worse and worse. The longer it stays there and builds up throughout of the week, the more putrid it will be to come here,” said Michael Hall, who works on Longboat Key.

Suncoast Waterkeeper founder Justin Bloom is keeping a close eye on the impact of harmful algal blooms on the region.

“We are very concerned and Tampa Bay is very sick right now. It’s the worst I’ve spoken to and in my memory we haven’t seen it this bad in decades,” Bloom said. “We are really concerned that this fish kill is essentially fueling the red tide and making it worse. It’s a vicious cycle and we don’t really see conditions improving in the near future in Tampa Bay,” a- he continued.

Bloom says the worst-case scenario would be a red tide bloom similar to what the Suncoast saw in 2018.

“I don’t know how you can get any worse than that and I think that’s what we’re afraid of. From an environmental point of view, from a human health point of view, from an economic point of view…these wounds are still felt by this community. They still feel that pain from a few years ago and fear it will happen again,” Bloom said.

Hall, who entered the waterfront dining industry in 2018, admits he is deeply concerned about conditions reaching a similar level.

“It will hurt everyone. Business from waiting staff to the dishwashers. It’s awful,” Hall said. “It took a few years to come back from the last one,” he continued.

FWC’s next full red tide status report will be released this Friday.

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