Jul 19, 2021 - News

Red tide forces St. Petersburg to clean up hundreds of tons of dead fish

A dead fish floats near the seawall in Coffee Pot Bayou in St. Petersburg. Photo: Annette Baesel for Axios

As the stench of dead fish takes over Tampa Bay shores, politicians are fighting for resources while citizens fight for action.

What's happening: The red tide fish kill is primarily along the St. Petersburg coast, where about 800 tons of dead fish have been removed over the last 25 days. 142 tons were collected on Wednesday alone.

  • It's not just fish: The kill included a dolphin and a sea turtle.
  • At an emergency City Council meeting, St. Pete reported it is spending about $61,000 a day on cleanup and estimates $1.2 million has been lost due to delayed projects.
  • Where do all the dead fish go? Mayor's office spokesman Ben Kirby told Axios they're mostly going to the county incinerator, but some are going to the landfill.

State of play: Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Darden Rice motioned for a second state of emergency request after Gov. Ron DeSantis denied one last week from Mayor Rick Kriseman.

  • A state of emergency would free up more money and resources. DeSantis' office initially said the Department of Environmental Protection already has funds dedicated to this type of crisis.
  • But Rice said the county will need more than the $900,000 allocated to help.
  • Rice's motion passed, along with another asking Pinellas County to extend its ban on fertilizer sale and use past Sept. 30.

What they're saying: Protesters gathered at St. Pete Pier on Saturday demanding that DeSantis declare a state of emergency, create a plan for closing Piney Point, stop phosphate mining in Florida and make polluting companies pay for cleanup, per the Tampa Bay Times.

  • Commercial fishers told Fox 13 they're out of work and hoping a state of emergency would mean they could be hired to help clean up dead fish.
  • J.P Brooker, director of Florida Conservation for the Ocean Conservancy, told St. Pete Catalyst: "In my opinion, we’re in for a summer of slime."
  • Brooker said the Piney Point leak has exacerbated the situation, but he also blamed the ongoing warm, dry Saharan air layer and warmer Gulf temperatures.

Selene's thought bubble: It's hard to understand the magnitude of 800 tons of dead fish until you've smelled it. It's horrifying, even at what I thought was a safe distance from the water.

  • If you're planning a beach trip to St. Pete, reconsider.

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