TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. — Pinellas County leaders have scooped up and thrown out 173,000 pounds — or 86.5 tons — of dead fish over a 6-day stretch between Friday, September 7 and Thursday, September 13.
Yet, despite that large number, cleanup crews tell ABC Action News they’re encouraged that the red tide bloom may be moving away from Pinellas County.
The largest number of dead fish were found on Sunset Beach in Treasure Island. According to Pinellas County environmental management employee Kelli Hammer-Levy, crews picked up 200 fish per every 10 feet of beach on Thursday morning.
By afternoon and evening, Treasure Island looked drastically better.
Patricia Hasou and Tish Dallas are glad they decided not to cancel their trips to Madeira Beach in Pinellas County. “The smell is much better and the water looks much better now so I'm happy!" Dallas explained, “I was very disappointed at first and thought about leaving but I’m glad I stuck it out for a couple of days.”
DRC Emergency Services, the contractor hired to clean the beaches say they noticed fewer dead fish on Thursday compared to earlier in the week.
“There were a little bit, but not like we’ve seen the last few days," Jay Gunter elaborated, adding that his crews were finding hundreds of thousands of dead fish less than a half mile offshore earlier in the week. Now, crews are venturing nearly 3 miles offshore to find large amounts of dead fish.
“The further we go out to collect it the better, because that means that it is further away from the beaches,” Gunter added.
Test results Wednesday show higher levels of red tide near Treasure Island, Madeira Beach and North Redington Beach and lower levels both North near Clearwater and South near St. Pete Beach.
Although crews are hopeful that the toxic algae bloom may be moving away from Pinellas County, they know strong winds could bring it right back.
Pinellas County Coast Guard members spent the day in a helicopter Thursday tracking red tide from above. They're working closely with cleanup crews to make sure they’re in the right place to capture the dead fish before they wash up onto the beaches.