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St. Pete leaders beg for state help with overwhelming red tide cleanup

400-pound goliath grouper washes up in city
Dead fish surround boats due to red tide in Tampa Bay
Dead fish are removed due to red tide in Tampa Bay
Posted at 5:51 PM, Jul 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 08:06:38-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Petersburg leaders are turning to the state for help. City leaders say they’re overwhelmed by dead fish and struggling to keep up with one of the worst red tide blooms to ever impact the bay area.

“It’s pretty awful. The odor sticks to you. It stays in your nasal passages,” Mayor Rick Kriseman explained. “Not to mention the emotional toll of dealing with all the dead animals.”

St. Petersburg leaders told ABC Action News they’re also starting to see dead dolphins, sea turtles and goliath groupers. On Wednesday, crews scooped up a 400-pound grouper using a backhoe at Crisp Park.

Despite 200 St. Pete workers spending their entire shifts on red tide clean-up, resources are dwindling, according to Kriseman.

“We don’t know when this is going to end. Our city teams can only do this for so long. We are asking the governor, please, Pinellas County and St. Petersburg, we need your help,” he added.

Kriseman said shrimp boats are needed to capture the dead fish before they wash into canals. The biggest concern right now: not knowing how long this red tide bloom will impact the bay. While most of the beaches remain clear of dead fish, the bay and canals continue to be plagued by rotting fish.

Time is ticking too. The longer the fish rot, the more fuel they provide for the red tide bloom.

FWC officials are also committing to invest more money towards cleanup and long-term solutions. A spokesperson for the governor’s office told ABC Action News the state has provided $900,000 to Tampa Bay communities for clean-up and they plan to issue more grants soon to help.

Kriseman and other local leaders are asking Governor Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency to free up funds for cleanup.

In regards to that, Deputy Communications Director Jared Williams says, “The DEP has a dedicated funding source and is providing grants to affected counties as was done (during the red tide bloom) in 2018, and unless that funding source is depleted, a state of emergency is not necessary. DEP will continue to work with the affected counties to assess the needs of the local communities in the event additional funding is needed."