Jun 15, 2021 - News
Red tide threat has Tampa Bay on edge
Dead fish due to a red tide in January near Captiva Island. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

A growing bloom of the red tide organism Karenia brevis is spreading around Tampa Bay and other parts of Southwest Florida, prompting Pinellas County health officials to issue a warning to beachgoers late last week.

Why it matters: Beach businesses still recovering from the pandemic worry that a serious red tide could keep visitors away from a region that depends on tourism — and the bloom could spell disaster for the area’s marine ecosystems.

By the numbers: According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the red tide organism was detected in 71 water samples last week, with bloom concentrations observed in 17 samples.

  • Bloom concentrations were found in six samples from Pinellas County, four samples from Hillsborough County and five samples from Manatee County. (Map)

What they're saying: "It ranks up there with the 2018 red tide in terms of how bad it is for the health of the bay," David Tomasko, executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, told the Bradenton Herald. "The last thing in the world we needed was this."

  • Scores of fish kills have been reported to the FWC since June 1.
  • Visit St. Pete/Clearwater has promised to keep locals and visitors informed about conditions along the 35 miles of Pinellas County beaches here.

Some useful advice, straight from the Pinellas County Health Department:

  • If you live near the bay or beaches, close windows and run the air conditioning.
  • If outdoors, consider wearing a filter mask, especially if onshore winds are blowing.
  • Don't swim around dead fish.
  • Keep pets away from the water, sea foam and dead fish.
  • Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish or distressed or dead fish. Rinse healthy fish fillets with tap or bottled water.
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