St. Pete Mayor asks state for help to clean up massive fish kill from red tide

red tide ray stingray beach Gulfport
A dead ray on the beach at low tide in Boca Ciega Bay following a red tide outbreak. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (22 Sept. 2018).

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman suggests that the cost so far of the cleanup of tons of dead fish from an ongoing red tide outbreak is “six figures.” He’s asking the state for help. Kriseman estimated that between the city and Pinellas County, officials have cleaned up 500 tons of dead sea life.

“I’ve just spent an hour out here helping. And I’ve got to tell you it’s pretty awful. The odor sticks to you. It stays in your nasal passages,” Kriseman said. “And then there’s the emotional toll of just dealing with all the dead animals.”

Kriseman said in addition to tons of fish, dolphins and sea turtles have also been found dead.

“The fish that we all have enjoyed in Tampa Bay and St. Pete, just washing up day after day.”

Kriseman continued:

“I believe, between the City and our contractors, we probably collected, at this point in time, more than 500 tons of dead sea life by now. I want to thank our partners at the County. They also helped us, as well as many residents, especially as these fish make their way onto private property.”

What to do if there are dead fish on your private property

“So, this is an important message that we want to get across. We will not be going onto private property to retrieve dead fish. So, if you have a home with a shoreline or rocks behind, or somewhere else where fish may accumulate, you may bag your fish up.

“We suggest you double-bag them and put them in your residential solid waste container. But we also have roll-off dumpsters here at Crisp Park. and in Flora Wylie Park, Lassing Park and Demens Landing, at Grandview Park, at Bay Vista Park, and at Maximo.”

What exacerbated the red tide fish kill?

“Again, I understand this is frustrating and maddening. And I know, you know, it’s human nature. We want to point fingers at someone or something that caused this.

“Maybe it was the incident it Piney Point that contributed to this or exacerbated it. Maybe it’s the warm waters and climate change that are making it worse. And while we thankfully escaped the flooding and damaging winds from Hurricane Elsa, I suspect it also may have pushed significant quantities of dead sea life into our Bay, our waterways, and our canals making this situation even worse.”

How to avoid the worst case in the future?

“Certainly, modernizing our Industries and infrastructure in Florida could help keep our waters healthier. Right now, however, we are all about “clean up”. And we will keep at it for as long as we can. And this is, this is another important point. We don’t know when this is going to end.

“And our City teams can only do this for so long as we are, unfortunately, compromising other city services. If it continues at this pace, we will need more resources from the state of Florida.

St. Pete requests help from the state

“We are asking the governor, please — Pinellas County, St Petersburg, we need your help. This isn’t about politics. And I know the governor has had a lot of trouble lately. But we need his office to be paying attention to this. Even Rick Scott, when he was governor, declared a state of emergency related to Red Tide. Send resources down here. And more help is needed if we’re going to get these fish out of the water. This is a quality-of-life issue. It’s an economic, and it’s a tourism issue. And it’s really impacting the lifeblood of Florida and our Gulf Coast.”

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