SARASOTA (FOX 13) - The Labor Day Regatta has been a tradition in Sarasota since 1946, but this year it's canceled because of red tide.
"It's a huge disappointment," said John Pether of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron. "From 1946 when we started this regatta, we've had to cancel it once in 1985, and that was because of Hurricane Elena."
Dead horseshoe crabs were washing ashore where boats would normally launch on Sarasota Bay.
The squadron expected 1,000 people for this weekend's event.
"It's impacted the boat rental businesses and waterfront restaurants and downtown restaurants, so it's severe," said Pether.
It's one of the most severe blooms in recent history. Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory are studying the bloom and experimenting with ways to control red tide in closed areas like canals. But it's already sent hundreds of tons of dead fish washing ashore, fouling beaches and sickening visitors.
"So many people are so dependent on the environment for their quality of life. And when it's threatened with a natural occurrence like this, it's just heartbreaking," said Dr. Tracy Fanara, who studies red tide at Mote.
At the sailing squadron, there's no doubt the cancellation would have surprised the commodore who started the event in 1946.
"He made an announcement that it was the worst time of year to hold a major regatta because of hurricanes. We never thought it would be red tide that would get us," added Pether.