In response to intensified red tide conditions in the Bay area, the the National Weather Service and the Florida Department of Health both issued advisories to beachgoers about potential respiratory impacts and avoiding water where dead fish are present.
Fish kills have been reported in all local waterways around Tampa Bay, Boca Ciega Bay and on the Gulf beaches from Fort De Soto to the north county.
Pinellas County continues to deploy cleanup crews and contractors to remove dead fish. According to the county, over the weekend, the county’s contractor, DCR Emergency Services, brought in eight fishing boats to remove dead fish and marine life from Fort De Soto, Boca Ciega Bay, the Intracoastal Waterway, and sections of Tampa Bay along the City of St. Petersburg’s waterfront. Collectively, local governments have cleared more than 410 tons of marine life since June, according to the county.
Pinellas beaches remain open, however, with varying levels of red tide along the coast as of Monday, July 12, but the county urges beach-goers to look up the latest respiratory forecast and red tide conditions before they head out.
“Red tide is having an impact on our bay and beaches right now, but Pinellas County is working around the clock to lessen its effects on residents and visitors by removing dead fish and sharing the latest information on where the bloom is concentrated,” said Public Works Director Kelli Hammer Levy. “Our beaches remain open and it’s important to check the latest information on which areas are being affected as conditions change from one day to the next.”
Red tide can cause respiratory and other problems in people who are sensitive to it. The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas advises residents not to swim where they see dead fish. If you have chronic respiratory problems, be careful and consider staying away from areas where medium to high levels of red tide are reported.
Do not harvest or eat shellfish or distressed or dead fish in red tide locations, and keep your pets away from water, sea foam and dead sea life.
Residents living in beach areas are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner (making sure that the A/C filter is maintained according to manufacturer’s specifications). If outdoors, the FDOH – Pinellas says you may want to wear paper filter mask, especially if onshore winds are blowing.
Florida Poison Control Centers have a toll-free 24/7 hotline for reporting illnesses, including health effects from exposure to red tide at 1-800-222-1222.
What You Need to Know
Red tide can cause respiratory irritation in higher concentrations, especially when the wind is blowing onshore. Pinellas County contributes to the Red Tide Respiratory Forecast tool for anyone considering a beach visit. Visit St. Pete/Clearwater maintains a beach status dashboard that also includes this information at beachesupdate.com.
Large fish kills have been reported in St. Petersburg and areas of the Intra-Coastal Waterway. Residents can report fish kills to FWC through the FWC Reporter app, by calling 800-636-0511 or by submitting a report online. Residents who find dead fish near their property can retrieve them with a skimmer and dispose of them with their regular trash or call their local municipality for additional guidance.
Fertilizer ban reminder: Red tide blooms can be worsened by excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous. The county reminds residents that there is a ban on fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus through September 30, and phosphorus cannot be used any time of year unless a soil test confirms that it is needed.