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I don't normally post these sort of depressing things, but the journalist in me feels as though this is a current issue that needs to be addressed and talked about. The issue of red tide in Florida continues to be ongoing, and it's making some Gulf Coast beaches absolutely disgusting and truly a sad sight to behold.
For those who are unaware, red tide is a toxic algae bloom (which is naturally occurring, but has been more extreme due to chemical runoffs and global climate change) that toxifies coastal waters and kills sea life in masses. It's so obviously toxic that birds and other local wildlife that would normally eat the dead fish that wash up on shore won't even touch them --consequently leaving piles of dead fish to stink up the beaches as they rot in the Florida heat.
Due to the adverse reactions humans can have as a result of red tide, as recommended, I try to avoid the beaches when red tide alerts are issued --however, I thought that after all the rain we had gotten recently would have helped clear it up. Unfortunately, I was wrong and I should have checked the red tide maps before heading to the coast.
I was at Robert K. Rees park in Pasco County over the weekend to watch the sunset on Saturday and this is only a small portion of what I saw while walking along the coastline (dead marine life content warning):
And this is only one area that is being affected.
A couple of weeks ago I asked a group of Dunedin locals what they have been experiencing around Honeymoon Island, to which several noted that the shores are covered in dead and dying fish. One woman responded with, "I was outside for a little bit the other day because we had a taco truck out front of where we live, within a few minutes my eye swelled shut and I couldn't see out of it the whole night. I mean I have serious allergy issues but that's never happened to me before and btw I live on the causeway --so I know it was from the air of red tide."
Do note that we don't usually get to see the full true effect of the tide as many of the affected beaches are cleaned up daily.
While the impact to local wildlife is immediately alarming, many don't realize how much it also affects businesses and the local economy. The tourism industry that Florida relies so heavily on takes a huge hit when red tide comes around because less people are doing beach-related activities. Some of the most affected businesses include:
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), different concentrations of red tide blooms are being observed right now throughout the entire Gulf Coast, with the highest levels around the central Gulf region. Swimming and other beach water activities are not recommended in any of these areas. If you're looking for a way to cool down while riding out the toxic algae blooms, consider going to one of the local springs instead.
If you want to help prevent harmful algae blooms, consider taking small steps to become more eco-friendly by always picking up waste from your pets, avoid washing cars on pavement, maintain an eco-friendly garden, use only organic fertilizers and pesticides, and conserve water.
Under the current circumstances, I cannot recommend a trip to any Central Florida Gulf beach until this blows over (who knows when that will be), but if you do visit the beaches and notice signs of red tide, remember to report fish kills and other dead marine life to the FWC by calling 800-636-0511.