TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. — Pinellas County leaders have scooped up and thrown out 890,000 pounds — or 445 tons — of dead fish over a 12-day stretch between Friday, September 7 and Wednesday, September 19.
After the red tide appeared to be moving away late last week, over the weekend and Monday the red tide bloom moved closer to Pinellas County's shoreline.
The largest number of dead fish are being found on Sunset Beach in Treasure Island and on Madeira Beach, particularly near John's Pass. According to Pinellas County environmental management employee Kelli Hammer-Levy, crews picked up 200 fish per every 10 feet of beach one morning.
DRC Emergency Services, the contractor hired to clean the beaches say the weekend of September 15-16 was like a "red tide Armageddon" with more dead fish washing up than they could scoop.
“Just as soon as we get the beach free of dead fish, more wash on shore," Jay Gunter explained, adding that his crews are finding hundreds of thousands of dead fish less than a half mile offshore.
“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 Monday show higher levels of red tide near Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Pass-A-Grille and North Redington Beach and lower levels both North near Clearwater and South near Fort De Soto.
Pinellas County Coast Guard members and a team from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office are 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.
As of Monday, September 17th, the contractor hired by Pinellas County has 17 boats, 5 beach rakes and 35 dumpsters that they are using in the cleanup process. They are also reaching out to local charter fishermen and shrimp boat captains for additional help.
Some larger fish, including grouper, are starting to wash onshore.
The water is also a dark red color near Treasure Island and Madeira Beach.
The red tide is also impacting beach businesses who are seeing very few customers. Caddy's On the Beach in Treasure Island closed on Sunday, September 16th to ensure the safety of their employees and customers. Several restaurants in John's Pass are making the decision to close early because of a lack of clients. Hubbard's Marina says they did not have enough customers Monday to run any charter fishing boats or dolphin watching cruises.