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Red Tide is out there, but so far Pinellas, Pasco spared major fish kills

Water samples show the algae has been detected all along the Pinellas coastline.
An aerial drone photo of Sand Key looking north towards Indian Rocks Beach taken on Sept. 2.
An aerial drone photo of Sand Key looking north towards Indian Rocks Beach taken on Sept. 2. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Oct. 5
Updated Oct. 5

Concentrations of Red Tide have been detected along the Pinellas coastline, but county officials say they’re not seeing the massive fish kills that inundated the coastline when the algal crisis peaked this summer.

High concentrations of Karenia brevis, the organism that causes Red Tide, were detected in water samples taken off La Contessa Pier in Redington Beach, Madeira Beach, Johns Pass Park and Treasure Island, according to Pinellas County’s online map. Medium concentrations were found off Honeymoon Island and Pass-a-Grille Beach.

Related: Red Tide is still floating out there and could return. But when?

Low concentrations dot the coastline, from Clearwater Beach in the north to Mullet Key in the south. The state Red Tide map shows a hub of medium and low concentrations around Anclote Key island.

Crews haven’t had to clean up dead fish from the Pinellas coastline in a month, according to the county. Pinellas reported picking up a total of nearly 1,839 tons of dead marine life as of Sept. 4, but has recorded nothing since then. Still, that’s nearly as much as Pinellas collected during the 2018 outbreak that afflicted Florida’s west coast.

The county said it has not had to bring back the contractor who conducted this summer’s clean-ups. The city of St. Petersburg says it hasn’t had to perform any clean-ups lately, either. Pasco County officials say they haven’t seen any debris since the summer.

Related: Could Tampa Bay’s Red Tide be connected to Piney Point disaster?

Red Tide blooms typically occur from August to November, so blooms could still form before the end of the year. The recent Red Tide crisis was atypical because blooms don’t typically occur in the early summer.

Scientists believe there’s a link between the recent outbreak in Tampa Bay and the April release of 215 million gallons of polluted wastewater into the bay from the old Piney Point fertilizer plant site. The nitrogen-rich wastewater could have fueled an existing Red Tide bloom.

Editor’s note: The location of the beaches was corrected in the photo.

• • •

Red Tide coverage

Tampa Bay has Red Tide questions. Here are some answers.

Is it safe to eat seafood? Here’s how Red Tide affects what you eat.

Can I go fishing? The state is limiting saltwater fishing.

Piney Point: The environmental disaster may be fueling Red Tide.

Red Tide resources

• The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a website that tracks where Red Tide is detected.

• Pinellas County has its own Red Tide tracking map.

• Florida Poison Control Centers have a toll-free 24/7 hotline to report illnesses, including from exposure to Red Tide: 1-800-222-1222

• To report dead fish for clean-up in Tampa Bay, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-800-636-0511 or file a fish kill report online.

• In St. Petersburg, call the Mayor’s Action Center at 727-893-7111 or use St. Petersburg’s seeclickfix website.

• Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the county’s tourism wing, runs an online beach dashboard at www.beachesupdate.com.

How to stay safe near the water

• Do not swim around dead fish.

• Those with chronic respiratory problems should be careful and stay away from places with a Red Tide bloom. Leave if you think Red Tide is affecting you.

• Do not harvest or eat mollusks or distressed and dead fish from the area. Fillets of healthy fish should be rised 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.

• Beachgoers can protect themselves by wearing masks.

Source: Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County