Rep. Jolly calls on NOAA to focus on "red tide" fish kills

Algae blooms lingers near Pinellas coast

CLEARWATER, Fla., - This week ABC Action News showed you the dead fish that washed ashore Honeymoon Island over the Labor Day weekend.

Now Pinellas County's coastal businesses and fishermen fear a red tide fish kill could be headed their way.

The situation has Clearwater charter boat captain Mike Colby recalling "the tide of '05."

"It was real bad," Colby told ABC Action News. "It took my business down 30 percent to 40 percent [that year] in terms of gross revenue."

Colby is among a group of Pinellas County fishermen who wish the poisonous bacteria blooms were more predictable. 

"We have customers that have booked with us 3, 4, 5, 6 weeks in advance of all this," Colby said.

That's why U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Pinellas County, is advocating for more money to be spent on researching fish kills in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Frankly, significantly expanded research funding, particularly from NOAA [the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration], to continue to learn more about red tide," he said.

The red tide algae bloom is naturally occurring, said state researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, but Jolly thinks more can be done.

"We can identify if there are many ways to mitigate it," Jolly tells ABC Action News, "and perhaps most importantly ways to forecast its growth."

The business community has been reluctant to even discuss a possible red tide situation on the coast out of fear that it will scare off tourists.

Local business owners in Clearwater have told ABC Action News they'd prefer not to speak on camera about this issue out of fear people will associate them with a possible red tide.

A representative of the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce reportedly disparaged Jolly's efforts today, according to a local news organization, but the President & CEO of the Chamber said he believes in Jolly's "good" intentions.

"The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce appreciates the efforts of Congressman Jolly to journey out in the Gulf, to view firsthand, the effects of the Red Tide on the beaches and barrier island," said CEO Bob Clifford to ABC Action News today in a written statement. "Clearly he is supporting the tourism industry in Pinellas by being proactive. His offer to speak with Federal Agencies about increased research efforts to eliminate Red Tide shows that he recognizes the top economic driver in Pinellas County, Tourism."

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