Jul 21, 2021 - Politics
DeSantis again refuses to declare state of emergency for Tampa Bay red tide
Dead fish being pulled from the water at Crisp Park in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo: courtesy of the City of St. Petersburg

Despite pleas from the city of St. Petersburg, environmentalists and activists, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis doubled down Wednesday and again refused to declare a state of emergency for Tampa Bay's ongoing red tide.

Why it matters: DeSantis said his office is committed to working with the community to fight the red tide, but argued that a state of emergency would hurt businesses by sending the message that "Florida has problems."

  • He pointed to programs he already set up and funded to attack red tide, including reactivating the Red Tide Task Force and setting aside funds specifically for red tide in the state's annual budget.

State of play: More than 1,200 tons of dead fish have been pulled from the waters off St. Petersburg and incinerated, according to Mayor Rick Kriseman's office.

  • Additional mitigation efforts include the use of a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) sampling robot that DeSantis said is collecting "unprecedented" information about how many red tide cells there are in a particular bloom.
  • FWC is also using an aircraft and helicopter to find problem areas that need cleaning.

Worth noting: Not everyone in the region was against the governor's decision.

  • St. Pete City Councilman Ed Montanari said he was "so pleased that everybody is working together to improve our environment."
  • Local cruise and fishing proprietors said they're happy with how the red tide is being handled.
  • Restauranteur Pete Boland, who lives in Shore Acres and is running to be the next mayor of St. Pete, agreed that declaring a state of emergency was unnecessary: "There’s really no difference. They’ve already set the money aside."

The other side: Kriseman was not invited to the discussion that took place before DeSantis' press conference, spokesperson Ben Kirby tweeted, adding that DeSantis "surrounds himself with handpicked Republicans."

  • Rep. Charlie Crist (D), one of DeSantis' challengers in the 2022 gubernatorial race, tweeted: "Maybe [DeSantis] needs a COVID test because if you can’t smell the rotting fish and red tide burn something’s wrong with your senses. We need an emergency declaration and aid, not happy talk, Governor."

Between the lines: DeSantis said Tampa Bay "looks a lot better than it did last week," but as the Tampa Bay Times pointed out, red tide could still get worse at Gulf beaches even as the bay itself gets better.

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