A fish kill on Whitney Beach on Longboat Key this weekend

A fish kill on Whitney Beach on Longboat Key this weekend

Image: Judy Burns

Red tide is back in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Mote Marine Laboratory's beach conditions reporting system, which monitors red tide blooms, currently features numerous reports from community members about discolored water, eye and respiratory irritation, and fish kills.

So did Hurricane Elsa, which passed through our region last week, and April's Piney Point crisis have anything to do with this most recent outbreak? Suncoast Waterkeeper's Justin Bloom says yes. The organization posted a video of fish kills in Longboat Pass to its Facebook page this morning; commenters say they're seeing dead fish on Siesta Beach, too.

"Its bad, particularly in the bays," Bloom told us. "We are monitoring it—there is no smoking gun, but there's a consensus that Piney Point played a major role. Elsa pushed things around and onto shorelines and contributed additional nutrient-laden stormwater, but in the summer that is usually mitigated by lower salinity from rainwater. I think the main driver here was Piney Point."

The Sarasota Department of Health makes the following recommendations about the presence of red tide:

  • Don't swim around dead fish.
  • If you have chronic respiratory problems, consider staying away from the beach as red tide can affect your breathing.
  • Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish and distressed or dead fish. If fish are healthy, rinse fillets with tap or bottled water and throw out the guts.
  • Keep pets and livestock away from water, sea foam and dead sea life.
  • If you live in a beach area and experience respiratory symptoms, close your windows and run the air conditioner (making sure that the A/C filter is maintained according to manufacturer’s specifications).
  • If outdoors, you can wear paper filter masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing.

To report illness, including health effects from exposure to red tide, residents can also call Florida Poison Control Centers at (888 232-8635. The DOH Sarasota’s weekly sample results can be viewed here; the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is also providing twice-weekly updates on red tide throughout the state here. Current beach conditions can be viewed on Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium’s website here, and more information is also available through NOAA here.

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