Red tide creeps north, reaching Longboat Key

- The red tide bloom that’s been fouling beaches in Southwest Florida has crept further north, almost reaching Bradenton Beach today.  Dead marine creatures filled the beach along Longboat Key, sending beachgoers fleeing.

The view from SkyFOX showed a very clear line in the water at Longboat Pass: North of the pass, on Bradenton Beach, the water was bright green and beaches were busy. But south of the line, on Longboat, the water was murky and dead fish floated in the waves lapping on empty beaches.

"The water is normally turquoise and beautiful. Now it's just this ugly brown," Beachcomber property manager Donna Zook said. “Yesterday it was bad enough I was coughing all day and had a headache."

FOX 13’s Kimberly Kuizon saw "tons and tons of dead fish" as she waded through the water near New Pass, on the south end of Longboat Key.

“The water, which is normally beautiful, is just this gross-looking color," she observed.

Visit Sarasota did a recent survey with hotels and rentals and they say at least 75 percent have seen cancellations and people leaving because of this bloom.

"Anybody who is planning on coming this weekend, I sent them an email and told them about the red tide -- told them if they didn't want to come, they could move their deposit ahead to a future reservation, in the same unit, within a year," Zook said, adding only one person canceled their reservation. "If it's so bad that they have to leave, we will compensate them."

Red tide is an algae bloom that depletes oxygen in the water, killing marine life from fish to manatees to turtles.  The organism can also cause respiratory problems and eye irritation in humans.  

Scientists with Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota say the blooms are naturally occurring, but they say man-made nutrients like fertilizer and river runoff can make them worse.

The bloom has been largely stagnant off southern Sarasota County for the last several months, but it has spread north each day this week, finally reaching Longboat Pass today.

“It’s just bad,” Kuizon added. “I grew up in this area and I haven’t see it this bad in a long time.”  

Late this afternoon, Sarasota County officials released cleanup numbers for Friday alone.  According to a county spokesperson:

•    Blind Pass to Manasota Beach: More than 50 bags of fish were removed 
•    Caspersen Beach: More than 200 bags of fish were removed.
•    Siesta Key removal from Point of Rocks north: 9 tons of fish were removed.
•    Turtle Beach: 1,120 pounds of fish were removed. 
•    Lido Key: 7 tons of fish were removed.

LINK: You can check the conditions at area beaches by visiting www.visitbeaches.org

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