ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - For weeks, commercial and charter fishing companies in Manatee and Sarasota counties have suffered from the effects of red tide. Now, fishing businesses in Pinellas County are feeling the effects.
For the last few months, Captain Karen Hugart has had a great fishing season, but that is now starting to change. Not only are dead fish seen on the beaches, but they're also being seen floating several miles offshore. Because of it, Captain Hugart says, people are starting to cancel their charter trips.
“As a captain, it’s going to mean loss of income," she said. "But more than loss of income is the loss of life for all the marine fish and animals and mammals it’s just devastating.”
Captain Hugart run Captain K’s, a commercial fishing company. She also offers fishing charters and tours and already she’s seeing cancellations, including a group of 15 people coming from Arizona.
“They were calling me today when I was out," Captain Hugart said. "They’re probably not going to come because they have people in their party with respiratory issues and they can’t risk it.”
For people with asthma or COPD, red tide can cause major respiratory issues and wildlife officials are urging anyone with those conditions to avoid water. Captain Hugart is most worried about the long term impact red tide will have on her business.
“I knew it was coming so I have been fishing as hard as I could," Captain Hugart said. "Trying to get as many people out. Trying to commercial fish while I can and there is really nothing else I can do except maybe pack the boat up on the trailer and eventually head north.”
On average, Captain Hugart catches about 400 pounds of fish per day, but today she only caught about 150 pounds. She believes the decrease is, in fact, due to the red tide