As red tide blooms in Tampa Bay appear to slowly recede, in daily monitoring reports on Thursday, July 22, high levels of red tide were reported from Pass-a-Grille to Madeira Beach, while Gulfport and downtown St. Petersburg showed medium levels, and low levels were reported in Fort De Soto.
The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce (TBBCoC) released an update stating that on Wednesday, July 21, “the water along the beaches from St. Pete Beach to Belleair Shores is very discolored and the aerosols were extremely strong. The beaches from Madeira north to Indian Rocks are heavily impacted. Each municipality has been actively working to remove the fish and contractor resources were deployed as needed to assist.”
Cleanup efforts along the beaches, according to the TBBCoC include two large shrimp boats in the Gulf and nine “inshore shrimpers” working along the Intracoastal from Madeira Beach to Boca Ciega Bay, along with utility boats from Redington to Tierra Verde. Hand crews have also been operating along the Gulf beaches to clear dead sea life.
DeSantis Touts Technology and Teamwork
Governor Ron DeSantis, along with a bevy of local city, county and state officials, business leaders and environmental agency reps, convened for a press conference in St. Petersburg on Thursday, July 21 to report on red tide and the ongoing efforts of multiple levels of government to deal with the massive fish kills in Tampa Bay and other local waterways in the past weeks.
“This morning I was able to go with DEP and FWC to survey the impacts of red tide in the Tampa Bay area,” DeSantis said, “and to get an update on the mitigation efforts. At my direction, the state’s been working with local communities here in Pinellas County as well as Hillsborough in an all-hands-on-deck approach to respond to the red tide that’s been impacting the Tampa Bay area.”
After recent cleanups netted well over 1000 tons of dead sea life, officials say that there has been a significant improvement in the Bay.
“I was pleased to hear from everyone that was on the boat with me today that the Bay looks a lot better than it did last week,” DeSantis said, “and I think a lot of the reason for that is that everyone was on board to mitigate and obviously we’ve put a lot of funding toward that, and will continue to do more.”
DeSantis spoke of state efforts from agencies like the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to “detect, track and mitigate red tide,” including new technologies and partnerships, like the creation of the Center for Red Tide within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research institute.
The state also currently has a dedicated funding to respond to red tide outbreaks, according to the governor.
The FDEP has committed 2.1 million dollars for cleanup efforts in “Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg” and “has the resources to continue to provide additional assistance,” DeSantis said.
The FDEP and FWC have “significantly increased monitoring efforts” in Tampa Bay and the surrounding areas, and the governor touted new technologies like the FWC’s “sampling robot” that provides information on the red tide cells and their behavior. Over 500 samples were processed in the last week, according to the governor, and the FWC also has a dedicated aircraft and helicopter to monitor blooms.
“Clearly,” DeSantis said of red tide that has overwhelmed local waterways, “[Tropical Storm] Elsa pushed more of the blooms into Tampa Bay.”
Executive Director of the FWC, Eric Sutton, said, “The good news is you have the best scientists in the world here focused on red tide and harmful algal blooms; the bad news is, the reason they’re here is we’ve had those sort of blooms since recorded time.”
FDEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton spoke about facilitating the mitigation efforts at the state, county and city levels.
“We’re going to make sure that we’re readily accessible to whatever level of government that needs support,” he said. “This is a challenging issue when it starts to jump various boundaries and regions.”
The recent effects of red tide have been devastating in Tampa Bay, and particularly St. Petersburg’s waterfront.
“I’ve never seen a red tide bloom like we’ve had here in Tampa Bay, and last week…the City of St. Petersburg was show center,” said City of St. Petersburg Council Chair Ed Montanari, asserting that the blooms are receding. “It really has dissipated and moved out of Tampa Bay.”
Dave Eggers of the Pinellas County Board of County Commission stepped up to thank the cleanup crews.
“Thank you to all of the employees, here on the beaches, that have gone into the canals to do the real dirty work. It’s been tough, but it’s gotten done, and it’s much better today in the Bay,” he said. “We’ll see how it gets out on the beaches. It’s going to be a back and forth, but we’re going to make a community effort to make sure that we mitigate the problems.”
More on Red Tide
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.
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.
The FDOH – Pinellas advises residents not to 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.
Residents can report fish kills to FWC through the FWC Reporter app, by calling 800-636-0511 or by submitting a report online. Large fish kills should be reported to the county here. 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.