NewsPinellas County


Red tide in Tampa Bay raises questions over food safety

Fish cooking
Posted at 5:32 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 23:11:05-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — In just the past 3 days, Pinellas County crews have picked up 600,000 pounds of dead fish and red tide debris. That’s more than the weight of the Statue of Liberty!

With all the talk about red tide, you might be wondering if it’s safe to eat seafood.

Jimmy Klingensmith at I.C. Shark’s Seafood Market says most of Florida’s delicacies are safe because fish like grouper and snapper are caught offshore in areas not impacted by the bloom. Shrimp also have not been affected.

As for the mullet, trout, and other in-shore options, as well as clams and oysters, he said it’s important to know where the fish were caught.

“You need to know where they’re fishing. Your deeper water fish like snapper, grouper, stuff like that those are fine. The inshore fish are the ones everybody’s gotta worry about,” he explained.

The other problem: Fishermen often rely on baitfish to catch larger fish and those are heavily impacted by red tide. Bait Bucket in Tierra Verde is the quietest it’s been in months with employee Blade Willis saying he’s seeing fewer anglers in the shop.

“They ain’t got no reason to go out there. Everything is dead. It smells bad and it’s rough,” he elaborated.

Willis said the pinfish he sells are healthy, but once a fisherman puts them into their boat’s live well and they get exposed to the toxic algae; they go belly up.

This red tide bloom is having a trickle-down effect on Florida’s fishing industry and with 902 tons of red tide debris now collected in Pinellas County alone, there’s no telling how long it’ll take for our ecosystem to recover.

FWC is making one significant change because of red tide. Friday, the agency announced any snook, redfish and spotted seatrout caught in Tampa Bay must be released from now through September 16th.

The change applies to the following areas:

  • All Florida waters of Manatee County North of State Road 64, including all waters of the Braden River, and all tributaries of the Manatee River, excluding all waters of Palma Sola Bay.
  • All Florida waters of Hillsborough County.
  • All Florida waters of Pinellas County, excluding all waters of the Anclote River and its tributaries.