A handful of Pinellas County beach businesses, scientists and research experts spent the morning Wednesday brainstorming solutions to stop red tide from spreading and asking Tampa Bay area congressmen and senators for assistance.
Even as an offshore breeze pushes the impacts of red tide away from Pinellas County beaches, businesses continue to be impacted by the perception of red tide. Gulfside Resorts in Indian Rocks Beach is seeing the lowest revenue in 30 years. They're also getting calls from visitors inquiring about canceling their trips 6 months out.
That's why Shan Collins, a manager at Gulfside Resorts, attended a roundtable meeting with Senator Bill Nelson, Congressman Charlie Crist, and Congresswoman Kathy Castor.
"Our fear is these people won’t be coming back to us,” she told the table of politicians, scientists and other stakeholders.
Bookings are down 37% in October and more than 60% in November. For a small mom and pop business, that’s painful.
“It really hurts. It’s the worst numbers for October in 30 years,” Collins added.
Just down the road at Nekton Surf Shop, a few customers browse through the store, but a line of surf and paddleboards sit untouched.
Owner Anne Lopez says her sales are down at least 30%. “Tourist dollars can go anywhere in the state and they’re not wanting to come to hang out with dead fish. Even now when the red tide has subsided again, we aren't seeing them return,” Lopez said with a sigh.
The biggest worry is not knowing when, or if, visitors will come back.
Senator Nelson, Congresswoman Castor, and Congressman Crist vowed Wednesday to take action against red tide by creating stricter fertilizer ordinances, allocating more money for red tide monitoring and experiments and tackling climate change to keep the gulf temperature from rising.
Collins worries without bipartisan support to fight red tide, businesses like the one she works for, will struggle to survive.
“How many red tides will it take before people just don’t come back at all?” she asked.
Cooler weather this upcoming weekend and offshore winds are expected to continue to lessen the impacts of red tide in Pinellas County. However, the red tide bloom stretches 150 miles and lingers just offshore, worrying business owners about the busy tourism season just around the corner.