Red tide worries SWFL locals, businesses as season nears

People who live and work near our Southwest Florida beaches are worried the red tide reports will keep people away just as the season is starting to heat up.

It is not only fish that are reaping the effects of red tide at Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island and other beaches, but the clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife also said cormorant birds are showing signs of tide poisoning. So far, they have had at least 36 birds admitted to the clinic in October.

Beachgoers said they could feel the burning in their throat and eyes, but told WINK News right now it is not too bad. The beach is bearable. But locals who lived through the worst of the red tide crisis last year know how bad it can get and they are terrified for it to come back that way again.

“It was so disappointing to see it on the beaches and really hurt our tourism, and hurt people,” Eileen Wollenburg said.

“It’s sickening. It’s disgusting,” Walter Siewert said. “Your water today is almost like a cesspool.”

But that is not the only problem locals are worried about. Our beaches are also dealing with chunks of red drift algae. Red drift algae is not toxic. The Town of Fort Myers Beach said it has some benefits, like feeding the wildlife.

Experts at Florida Gulf Coast University said wind-wave action, like Tropical Storm Nestor, could lead to the algae washing ashore in higher concentrations. But beachgoers have told WINK News that toxic or not, the red drift algae is not a welcome sight.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Michael Mora
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