Fishermen turning to red tide cleanup for lost income

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Residents of a waterside community in Manatee County are thankful they might finally get a reprieve from the stench of rotting fish, thanks to some folks who have lost a lot of business in the midst of red tide.

Dead fish surround Trailer Estates Park. Pier Ignozzi-Shaffer just wants some relief. 

"Last night I came down here and I was absolutely in tears," she said, standing on her dock. "You don't want all these dead carcasses outside your home."

As the fish bake in the sun, the smell drifts into the home of John Williams. 

"It makes you kind of nauseous. Your voice changed. My voice has already changed from being out here," he complained. 

Red tide FAQ: What is it, and where does it come from?

Their scenario is not unique. It's happening in canals all around Manatee County. 

At Coral Shores, off Cortez Road, dead and rotting fish sit behind people's homes. There are so many, it looks like you could walk across them. 

In a canal behind Sarah Smith VanderBent's home, there are countless fish, and even a shark. Video she took in the canal shows fish flopping around and heartbreakingly, taking their last breaths. "Our neighbors who are in there 80s have lived here forever and they said, they’ve never seen a fish kill like this," VanderBent told FOX 13. 

The cleanup efforts feel endless. That's where fisherman Nathan Meschelle hopes to make a difference. 

"I try to be as fair as possible. I've had a few people take on it, but a lot of people I don't think they're really prepared to have what it costs to have this removed," he said. 

Red tide has docked the commercial fisherman's boat, so now he's offering to clean up people's canals and areas behind their homes. 

"I'm trying to be a positive impact. It hurts me to see this even though I don't live right here. I work here," he said. 

Meschelle is one of many fishermen and charter captains trying to make a living while red tide is present. 

"When we clean up the fish, we kind of get rid of that smell. No one wants to look at it. You have people here on vacation. They want to spend the time with their families. They want to go out and do things without having to look at dead fish and smell dead fish, so if we kind of come together and clean up the big mess from red tide, then it will help," said Captain Destiny Ibasfalean. 

It's not an easy job. By boat, they work to clean up the fish. Meschelle then hauls his load back to the boat ramp and has to unload it into county-provided dumpsters. 

He could easily head up north to fish, but he wants to help his town get back on its feet. 

"I'd rather stay here and try and help clean up and hope for the best," he added. 

For more information on how you can hire someone to clean up your property, visit Manatee County's red tide information website.