Sarasota, Fla. (AP) — Residents complained of eye burns and respiratory problems. Dead fish washed up on the beaches. A seaside festival has been cancelled, even though it was not scheduled for a month.
Florida’s southwest coast experienced an eruption of toxic red tidal algae this week, raising fears it could continue for some time. The current flowering began in October.
The annual BeachFest in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, sponsored by the Homeowners Association, has been canceled after it was determined, with help from the city and the Pinellas County Health Department, that red tide would continue through the middle of next month when the festival was scheduled.
“Red Tide is currently on the beach and is expected to remain in the area over the coming weeks,” the Indian Rocks Beach Homeowners Association said in a message to the public. “It is a shame that it has been cancelled, but it is the best decision in the interest of public health.”
Nearly two tons of debris, mostly dead fish, have been removed from Pinellas County beaches and hauled to a landfill, according to county spokesman Tony Fabrizio. He says Tampa Bay weather. Mandy Edmonds, superintendent of city parks, told the newspaper that about 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms) of fish have been removed from St. Pete Beach since the beginning of the month.
Red tide, a toxic algal bloom that occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico, is exacerbated by the presence of nutrients such as nitrogen in the water. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission warns against swimming in or around red tide water due to the risk of skin irritation, rashes, burning, and eye pain. People with asthma or lung disease should avoid beaches infested with toxic seaweed.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reported Friday that it found red tides in 157 samples along Florida’s Gulf Coast, with the highest concentrations along Pinellas and Sarasota counties.