Look at this massive “island” of dead fish floating off the St. Pete Pier on Friday morning. The city in Florida has been collecting tens of thousands of fish from the coast over the past 10 days and has cleaned up 9 TONS of dead fish due to red tide in just the last 24 hours alone.
Red tide has appeared in both Boca Ciega Bay and Tampa Bay, and may be a concern to those seeking to enjoy St. Pete’s waterfront and those who live in its proximity.
The massive red tide cleanup effort in St. Petersburg has entered its 10th day with more dead fish collected in the past 24 hours than in the last week.
City officials said the cleanup began after a wave of dead fish arrived near the coast days ago. They’ve been spotted in mangroves, near the shoreline, and out in the bay. Officials said Tropical Storm Elsa made it worse.
“We’ve collected 15 tons of fish in those 10 days and nine tons of those fish have been picked up in the last 24 hours,” said Amber Boulding, St. Pete’s emergency manager. “We’ve been dealing with red tide. Tropical Storm Elsa came and really exacerbated that issue and pushed even more fish in.”
Officials said 15 tons is equivalent to 25,000 fish. Nine tons is about 15,000 fish.
Boulding said the problem is widespread and the work is tedious, forcing the city to recruit more than 120 staff members from other departments besides public works to assist in the cleanup. They are also exploring options to bring in outside contractors to help.
Because multiple city workers are away from their day jobs, some other non-essential services have been delayed, such as mowing, tree trimming, and pothole repairs.
“We’re out there, we’re scraping and netting fish but the best way to let us know where those kills are and where the big piles of fish are is to let us know,” Boulding said.
The current red tide status in and around the St. Pete area can be found on the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission’s (FWC) Red Tide Status Map. Find a snapshot of the map below…
Most assume the problem is red tide, possibly exacerbated by Elsa. Red tide counts are high in St. Petersburg waters, but it’ll take additional testing from the FWC to determine Elsa’s impact.
“Right now it doesn’t look good out there, but that’s totally anecdotal, non-count scientific data,” offered Dr. Jim Ivey, an environmental science professor with USF St. Petersburg.
What is a Red Tide?
Red tide is a discoloration of a waterbody surface that occurs when colonies of algae grow out of control. Red tide blooms occur nearly every summer on Florida’s Gulf Coast and the most notable impacts are fish kills and unpleasant odors.
Fish kills are large groups of dead marine life which wind and tide conditions condense into a common area resulting in unpleasant odors along waterfronts or areas near impacted waterbodies. Additionally, red tide itself produces a distinguishable odor, burning eyes and nose or throat irritation in areas adjacent to or near waterbodies that are experiencing a bloom.
The City of St. Petersburg weekly tests local recreational waterbodies for the presence of specific bacteria. These results along with results from County red tide testing can be found here. 
Anyway, I would filter my water…
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