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Red tide reaches Pasco as the Gulf beaches undergo fish cleanups before spring break

 Dead fish litter the shore from the last red tide outbreak in 2022.
Conor Goulding
Mote Marine Laboratory
In this 2022 file photo by Mote Marine Laboratory, dead fish from red tide litter the shore along the Gulf coast. Over the past month, another bloom has been working its way north along the Gulf beaches, reaching Pasco County in recent days.

Red tide conditions have improved the past couple of days, but anyone heading out to the water should check a red tide report before choosing a beach.

A red tidebloom that has been moving north in the Gulf of Mexico is causing massive fish kills along the area's beaches — just as spring break approaches.

In the past two weeks, 3½ tons of of dead fish and marine life was collected in Manatee County alone. And in Pinellas, half a ton was removed from beaches in three days.

Red tide is now being reported the off Pasco County coast.

Conditions have improved the past couple of days, says Tony Fabrizio, a spokesman for Pinellas County. But anyone heading out to the water should check a red tide reportbefore choosing a beach.

"Red tide conditions change daily, based on the currents and the winds. When we have onshore winds, it's a little bit worse," Fabrizio said. "So this is just something we need to continue to monitor until this bloom dissipates."

 Map of red tide
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Map of red tide

The annual BeachFest in Indian Rocks Beach, sponsored by a homeowners association, has been canceled after it determined, with help from the city and the Pinellas County Health Department, that red tide likely would continue through the middle of next month when the festival was scheduled.

"Red tide is currently present on the beach and is forecasted to remain in the area in the weeks to come," the Indian Rocks Beach Homeowners Association said in a letter to the public. “It is unfortunate that it had to be canceled but it is the best decision in the interest of public health.”

In addition to the fish kills, many residents along the Gulf coast have been complaining about burning eyes and breathing problems because of the bloom, which started in October.

Red tide, a toxic algae bloom that occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico, is worsened by the presence of nutrients such as nitrogen in the water.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission warns people to not swim in or around red tide waters over the possibility of skin irritation, rashes and burning and sore eyes. People with asthma or lung disease should avoid beaches affected by the toxic algae.

The commission on Friday reported that it had found red tide in 157 samples along Gulf coast, with the strongest concentrations along Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

Though Sarasota County has been beset by red tide for months, county workers have not been asked to clean up dead fish. The city of Sarasota will begin picking up dead fish from private property twice a week.

According to a news release from the city:

Residents are asked to double-bag the marine debris collected and contact the Solid Waste Division in advance for a special courtesy pickup on a Wednesday or Saturday. Please call (941) 263-6170 to make arrangements.

Ceres Environmental Services, a debris management company on standby with the city, will soon remove dead fish and other marine debris from the following city parks and rights-of-way:

  • Bayfront Park/O’Leary’s
  • Bird Key Park
  • Centennial Park/10th Street Boat Ramp
  • Werlin Park
  • Hart’s Landing
  • Indian Beach Park
  • Ken Thompson boat ramp, fishing piers, playground area
  • New Pass
  • Nora Patterson Bay Island Park North Park
  • Sapphire Shores Park
  • Tony Saprito Fishing Pier
  • Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall      
  • Whitaker Gateway Park

Crews will remove the debris by hand along the shoreline and by boat in some waterways.
Lido Beach is maintained by Sarasota County with weekly raking and additional service based on the County’s beach cleaning policy.
For red tide updates in Sarasota County, please visit

 Map of red tide outbreaks
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Map of red tide outbreaks

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.