High concentrations of the organism that causes red tide are being found on virtually all of the beaches in Pinellas County barrier islands; Pinellas County Environmental Management measured high concentrations of Karenia brevis cells Monday from Indian Rocks Beach south to the Ft. DeSoto Gulf Pier.
And depending on weather conditions, that’s causing fish to wash up on shore or respiratory symptoms because of airborne toxins.
WMNF interviewed Ken Hautmann, the general manager of Caddy’s on the Beach on Treasure Island.
“I mean, this is probably – in my 15 years on the beach – one of the worst fish kills I’ve seen. And then over the weekend what made it even worse was the direct west wind that we were having. Right off the Gulf of Mexico made it really, kind of unbearable to be open. So we closed Sunday.”
For how long?
“Just for the day. Lucky enough that the wind has switched for more out of a south wind so that’s a lot better, it’s not hitting the restaurant directly on.”
Except for even closing that one day, how has business been? Have there been fewer customers?
“Without a doubt. Business is basically right now nonexistent.”
Is there anything that governments or local officials could be doing to help the situation better?
“I think Pinellas County is doing an amazing job with everything that they – I mean they were so proactive at the beginning of making sure that the beaches were being cleaned and keeping the fish of the beach. But they just can’t keep ahead of it. I think they’re doing an amazing job.”
Besides seeing the fish on the beach, what other symptoms are you having or what other indications are there of red tide?
“The smell is probably the worst. So, scratchy throats and runny eyes. And that’s really the main part of it.”
What would you tell people if they’re thinking about coming down to the beach? Is it still worth coming down or is it just, ‘stay away?’
“It’s definitely not ‘stay away,’ it’s just ‘call ahead.’ Because the conditions are changing. Certain areas on the barrier beaches is worse on one day than it is the next. I’m standing outside right now talking to you and I really can hardly tell that it’s here right now. It’s different wherever you are on the beach. So just kind of plan ahead and call ahead.”
Is there anything else that people should know about the red tide in Pinellas beaches right now?
“It’s changing every minute. So just don’t think that it’s just here.”
WMNF reached out to a number of motels and hotels, but several of them were unwilling to talk about the red tide outbreak.
Here’s a link to Pinellas County’s red tide website:
And a current beach conditions website from the tourism-promotion group Visit St. Pete / Clearwater:
Here’s FWC’s red tide page: