Red tide is causing fish kills along Pinellas beaches
Winds from the north expected during a major cold front coming through Thursday should push the red tide offshore or back to the south, away from the beaches.
Workers continue to scoop dead fish from beaches in southern Pinellas County after the latest outbreak of red tide. But some improvement is expected when a cold front passes through Central Florida later this week.
More than 1,500 pounds of dead fish were shoveled off Pass-a-Grille Beach since this past weekend. The culprit is a bloom of red tide that has drifted north from the Fort Myers area since Hurricane Ian flooded inland parts of the state.
"The bloom in particular is impacting beaches in the southern part of Pinellas County," said Kate Hubbard, director of red tide research for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "So what we have right now is a fairly localized patch. It does extend further south; we've seen it move up north over time. We're continuing to track it."
Hubbard says it's hard to predict whether the bloom will get worse. But she expects the cold front to push the red tide offshore or back to the south, away from Pinellas beaches.
The latest outbreak affecting southern Pinellas beaches can be traced in part to Hurricane Ian.
There were no reports of fish kills until Ian struck Southwest Florida. The storm flooded areas far inland, and pollution and nutrients washed into the Gulf of Mexico when it receded, feeding offshore algae blooms.
"This year, the hard part was Ian passing through. It left a lot of destruction," Hubbard said. "And so I think it's going to take a while before we fully understand the impact of that on the ecosystem at large and taking it one step further, to thinking about what that might have done for algae and red tide."
High levels of red tide were reported this past week at Maximo Park in south St. Petersburg, with moderate concentrations at Pass-a-Grille, Treasure Island and Johns Pass. People with respiratory conditions are warned to stay away from those beaches and stay inside with air conditioning.
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