Red tide means empty nets for fishermen

The docks should be packed, conveyor belts should be running, and fish should be coming through Cortez Bait and Seafood.  Instead it is silent and empty.

"We see more buzzards than we see mullet," complained Mark Coarsey, one of the few trying his luck on the water Wednesday.

Mullet season opened just as red tide was spotted off the coast of Florida.  Fishermen go out and their boats come back with a few fish.  Some have none.

"Their fuel bill is more than what they are catching. It needs to stop," said Coarsey.

Coarsey said he has spotted dead fish along the north and south ends of Manatee County.  Dead fish have been spotted from Sarasota to Pinellas.

"These people depend on this money this time of the year. This is how they pay their taxes, their grocery bills. It is what they live on," he continued.

From the fishermen to the fish markets and restaurants, red tide has created a negative ripple effect throughout the mullet industry.

"We have like 30 people and I only have five on the floor today. Now it's cutting into their time. I'm working them half the time right now," said John Banyas the owner of Cortez Bait and Seafood and Swordfish Grill and Tiki Bar.

As fishermen drop their anchors in other locations, Mote Marine Laboratory continues to monitor the bloom.

"I can't say it is getting any worse. As far as getting better it seems to be a little less intense currently but that is primarily due to the offshore winds," offered Dr. Vincent Lovko.

They said it has appeared in Manatee, Sarasota, Lee, and Pinellas counties.

"Generally it has been staying in place, shifting a little bit in some cases, expanding a little bit in other cases contracting," said Dr. Lovko.

All the mullet industry can do is wait and hope tomorrow will bring a better day.

"Hopefully Mother Nature will cut us a break and we can get rid of this red tide and go back to normal," Banyas added.