Changing winds could bring slight relief to red tide in SWFL

Thousands of dead fish washing up each day on Sanibel and city officials just said there was a significant increase in the amount of dead sea life coming on to the beach overnight.

People living near the beaches tell us they hope to finally get relief soon.

Kathleen Cameron lives and works on Fort Myers Beach. She says this is the worst red tide she’s ever experienced, “I’m like about halfway down from the Gulf on my street, as soon as you walk out the door, you take a breath and it’s there.”

Empty sidewalks, abandoned restaurants, and Time Square is a ghost town.”I mean usually down here on the beach in Fort Myers there’s a lot of people, but you just don’t see any here.”

The people who are seen walking the beach are dodging dead fish.

An aquatic ecologist tells WINK News the wind has not only brought the red tide to Fort Myers Beach but is also what makes the toxins airborne.

MORENational Weather Service extends beach hazard through Monday

WINK News Meteorologist Matt Devitt says this weekend’s winds could actually help the stinky situation on Fort Myers Beach, “This weekend the wind is going to be from the southeast, from the land, so that is going to be pushing some of the moderate high concentrations offshore, but I still do expect a good amount to hang around the coast.”

Devitt says a faster wind speed is what’s really needed to help clear things up, “Because it’s only 5-10 and occasionally hitting 15, the rate at which it’s going to do it is still going to be kind of slow.”

And any relief is good news for businesses too, “Anything to help. anything to bring more people down to help with the smell and stuff like that…anything,” said Reid Freeman, SOB Bar Executive Chef.

Experts say it’s just going to take more southeast winds and stronger gusts to blow this red tide out of here.

FUTURE OF FISH

As thousands of dead fish, turtles, and even manatees wash up on our shores. Red tide is not only clearing out our waters but our beaches.

Dr. Win Everham is a professor of marine and ecological sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. He says this years red tide is some of the worst he’s ever seen, “My biggest concern is we know this is a problem, we know it has an impact on the ecology, we know it has an impact on the economy, but we don’t seem to be making progress.

Experts like Everham says it’s not only the impacts today we have to worry about, “there will be a cascading effect to the ecosystems as things die, the things that would’ve eaten those things don’t have enough food.”

He said, “I was on the beach yesterday helping to move off a loggerhead turtle, probably 200 pounds, 10s of years old, so you don’t replace that sea turtle in a year.”

The smell of dead fish is only a temporary effect for what could be devastating to Southwest Florida waters for years to come.

Red Tide Status Map (August 3, 2018)
Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
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