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Concerns raised over red tide, dead fish in Tampa Bay

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Posted at 11:22 PM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 23:33:56-04

TAMPA, Fla. — It’s a disturbing sight to see. Dead fish littering the surface of the water in Tampa Bay.

On Wednesday, dozens were spotted off of Davis Islands Se Plane Basin Park.

“You run around and all you see is white specks as you see out there. White dots everywhere you look and it’s just dead fish and it’s heartbreaking,” said Captain Dustin Pack.

Pack knows the waters well. He’s a fishing guide and board member for Tampa Bay Waterkeeper.

“On the beaches, it’s not awful, there’s still dead baitfish and stuff around the beaches, inside the intercostal. But inside of Tampa Bay is the worst,” Pack said.

More fish were found off Ballast Point. Others sent us images from near Apollo Beach.

FWC said fish kills suspected related to red tide have been reported in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties the past week.

RELATED: Latest red tide report shows fish kills in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties

In its latest red tide report, the agency said the red tide organism Karenia brevis was found in the background to high concentrations in Hillsborough and Pinellas County.

Pinellas said its beaches have improved, with the exception of Fort De Soto. It noted blooms within the ICW but said there are no major issues.

“The beaches from Pass-A-Grille to Fred Howard Park are in good shape,” the county stated in a release.

K. Brevis was also found in up to medium concentrations in samples in Manatee and Sarasota Counties.

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County sent a health alert for it, as has the department in Hillsborough County previously.

“We don’t usually see red tide at this extent this early in the season,” said Maya Burke, the assistant director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Burke said because this bloom is so patchy it’s hard to track.

“We do see some high levels of red tide that have moved northward off of Pasco County in the Gulf of Mexico. And notably, we’re also seeing high levels and medium concentrations of red tide in Tampa Bay,” said Burke, noting concern in an area by the Alafia River where people fish to feed their families.

However, one concern goes deeper than the surface of the Bay though.

“Unfortunately if this red tide persists for a long time over the summer months and beyond, that’s a light-limited period which could make it harder for our seagrasses to grow and thrive,” said Burke.

Burke explained that’s because it can darken the water, making it harder for light to reach the bottom where seagrass grows.

“We’re really coming off of some bad news with respect to seagrass meadows and Tampa Bay over the last two years. We lost more than 5,000 acres of seagrass and so to continue to see challenging light conditions in the Bay. That’s just another threat to seagrass resources which is really the foundation for a healthy Tampa Bay,” Burke said.

Pack shares a similar concern over long-term impacts.

“You can’t do anything that’s the thing that’s heartbreaking. You can’t do anything. All you can do is monitor it and wait and see how bad it gets,” Pack said.