Red Tide kills fish along Bay Area beaches

Kellie Cowan reports

- Dead fish and foul smells litter beaches from Lee up to Pinellas county as a large bloom of Karenia brevis - the algae known as red tide - takes hold in the area.

Testing of beach water revealed high levels of  the algae, which can also cause respiratory problems in humans - sometimes severe.

As of Friday, fish kills affecting multiple species, as well as respiratory irritation, have been reported at locations along Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties. Making matters worse, forecasts show little or no movement in offshore surface waters in the coming days.

In addition to red tide, warnings of bacteria in the water at beaches in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Sarasota counties were issued Thursday.

To view tables and maps of water test results, visit MyFWC.com/RedTideStatus.

Beaches where warnings or no swim advisories are likely to stay posted throughout the weekend - for red tide and/or bacteria - include: 

Hillsborough
Ben T. Davis Beach
E.G. Simmons Park Beach

Pinellas
Clearwater Beach
John's Pass
Sunset Beach

Manatee
Anna Maria Island
School Key
Longboat Pass

Sarasota
Longboat Key Beach
New Pass Dock
Bay Dock
Lido beaches
Turtle Beach
Nokomis Beach

Meanwhile, it’s been unusually laid back week for Holmes Beach charter captain Danny Stasny.

“Usually I’d be running two or three charters a week but this week we haven’t had any," Stasny said as he pulled his boat out of the Main Sail Marina in Holmes Beach.

Without any calls from tourists or locals hoping to book him for fishing trips, his weekend doesn’t exactly look profitable either.

"Seeing dead fish around is not always a promising sign," Stasny said with a grin.

He's making the best of it. Stasny says he's run his own charter sport fishing business on Anna Maria Island for the last seven years. So he knows, nearly every year at some point, red tide will pop up. And since hitting the shores of Manatee County, Stasny's charter business, much like the fish around him, has been dead in the water

From in-shore waters to the beaches, the signs of red tide around Anna Maria Island are unmistakable. Dead fish bob in the water and wash up on the beaches daily. The air is hard to breathe. And the stench is unmistakable.

But Danny says it’s not all bad news out on the waters.

“You can still get out and manage to catch some fish and stuff if you go to the right areas where there’s clean water, and a lot of times, if we do get out there and find the fish in clean water, you’ll find an abundance of them because they’re bunched up to escape the red tide,” he explained.

Stasny says he’s had a lot of success catching big game fish because of the phenomenon, but that doesn’t mean he’s willing to eat his catches.

“I don’t know, I’m not a scientist, but no," laughed Stasny. "I wouldn't eat it."

Florida Fish and Wildlife  doesn’t expect much relief for the areas already affected by red tide. Officials say this is just the start of the bloom and their tests show red tide is increasing.

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