Government workers clean up fish kills in Sarasota during the 2018 red tide bloom.

Government workers clean up fish kills in Sarasota during the 2018 red tide bloom.

Image: Karen Arango

A new report from the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, funded by the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund and the Sunrise Rotary Club Foundation of Sarasota, details the impact of the 2017-2019 red tide outbreak along Southwest Florida's coastline, when Sarasota Bay was impacted by a bloom that grew to 1,000 times the lethal concentration for fish and wildlife.  The report details conditions in the five-county Tampa Bay/Sarasota Bay region before, during and after the red tide event across 18 measures of community well being, including beach conditions, fish and wildlife health and welfare, recreation, social media sentiment, human health and welfare, tourism and business sales. It also recaps the regional response, highlights actions and innovations, identifies gaps and challenges and lists recommendations for future response.

Key takeaways:

  • More than 2,400 tons of dead marine life was cleaned from beaches and bay waters throughout the five-county region
  • Bird hospital admissions were up 300 percent, although the report says that most sick birds never made it to the hospital
  • In the report's five-county assessment, 190 turtles and 68 manatees died; across the entire Florida west coast, 1 out of every 12 manatees died in 2018, according to data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
  • Fish kill reports to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were 400 percent above normal
  • Scientific surveys of fish showed an 84 percent decline in August and September 2018, compared to the same period in 2017
  • In humans, asthma cases were up as much as 16 percent to 17 percent in Sarasota and Pinellas counties
  • Calls to 211 social service hotlines reached a three-year high across the region. In Sarasota and Manatee counties, peak calls came in October 2018, when calls for food, utilities and housing assistance spiked 300 percent over 2017
  • Manatee County islands experienced year-over-year revenue losses of 10 percent for hotels and 27 percent for restaurants
  • Manatee County commercial fisheries reported losses of 25 percent in 2018
  • Boating activity was down 24 percent in Sarasota and Pinellas counties, based on marine fuel sales records from the Florida Department of Revenue

For more information and to see the full report, click here.

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