Pinellas County officials have spent weeks dealing with a Red Tide outbreak that has spurred health warnings and left several tons of dead fish along the county’s sandy, lucrative beaches.
Now Red Tide might be Pasco County’s problem, too.
Three water samples taken off the southernmost tip of the Pasco coastline revealed the microorganism Karenia brevis, which causes the toxic algal blooms, according to the latest report Wednesday issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The strongest result found in Pasco is a medium-level concentration off the island of Anclote Key, at the county line. Low concentrations were detected near the Anclote River Park boat ramp and the Anclote Gulf Park pier.
That’s the first time the state has detected the presence of the current Red Tide outbreak in Pasco. That may have been inevitable, given the concentrations that have been moving north up the Pinellas coast toward its neighbor.
In Pinellas, 11 water samples contained Karenia brevis, according to the state. The only high concentration was detected in St. Joseph Sound, between Honeymoon Island State Park’s island of Grassy Key and Burghstream Point off the coast of Palm Harbor.
But starting from the northern tip of Caladesi Island State Park and moving north, there was a medium-level bloom found there; two more between Three Rooker Island to the west and Wall Springs Park to the east; and another detected southeast of Anclote Key, near the Tarpon Springs coast.
Pinellas officials announced Tuesday night that Red Tide was continuing its trek northward. Officials used a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office helicopter to spot blooms. They found discolored water off Redington Beach and Clearwater Beach, but said they saw improvement from previous air observations.
Red Tide was also found in three water samples taken from Hillsborough County waters and seven samples from Manatee County waters, according to the state. That is where the owner of the old Piney Point fertilizer plant released 215 million gallons of polluted wastewater into Tampa Bay. Scientists are examining a potential link between the release and the algal blooms.
Meanwhile crews continue to clean-up the Pinellas beaches. The county said workers on Tuesday removed dead fish from the Dunedin Causeway and Fred Howard Park. So far, the county has removed 66.8 tons of “Red Tide-related debris” — mostly marine life killed by Karenia brevis.
From Clearwater Beach south, water samples showed low concentrations near Causeway Boulevard, Sand Key Park Beach, Indian Shores Beach, La Contessa Pier in Redington Beach, Madeira Beach, Bert and Walter Williams Pier in Gulfport and St. Petersburg’s Bayboro Harbor. Two medium blooms were found further south near the Fort De Soto fishing pier and Mullet Key.
Red Tide resources
There are several online resources that can help residents stay informed and share information about Red Tide:
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the county’s tourism wing, runs an online beach dashboard at www.beachesupdate.com.
The agency asks business owners to email reports of Red Tide issues to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pinellas County shares information with the Red Tide Respiratory Forecast tool that allows beachgoers to check for warnings.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a website that tracks where Red Tide is detected and how strong the concentrations.
How to stay safe near the water
- Beachgoers should avoid swimming around dead fish.
- Those with chronic respiratory problems should be particularly careful and “consider staying away” from places with a Red Tide bloom.
- People should not harvest or eat mollusks or distressed and dead fish from the area. Fillets of healthy fish should be rinsed with clean water, and the guts thrown out.
- Pet owners should keep their animals away from the water and from dead fish.
- Residents living near the beach should close their windows and run air conditioners with proper filters.
- Visitors to the beach can wear paper masks, especially if the wind is blowing in.
Source: Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County