Coastal SWFL businesses deal with red tide, COVID-19 impacts

Red tide is on Southwest Florida’s coast.

Some dead fish have been found on Naples’s shores. And in Lee County, the Department of Health has alerted the public about blooms near South Seas Plantation Beach Access on Captiva Island, Lighthouse Beach Park and Tarpon Bay Road Beach on Sanibel, Lynn Hall Park on Fort Myers Beach, and Lovers Key State Park.

How is the restaurant industry dealing with the double whammy of red tide and COVID-19?

Surprisingly enough for Ocean Prime – a restaurant a few blocks away from Naples Beach — business has been steady.

Rick Giannasi, Ocean Prime’s general manager, said the red tide is lingering a bit, but it’s not as bad as it has been in the past.

“It’s kind of spotty,” Giannasi said. “We did maybe have a couple of guests last night that were maybe hesitant about coming out, so we had a couple of cancellations, but no one was really talking about it that much. I’ve heard a little bit, like, ‘Yeah I have a little tickle in my throat, a little cough.”

Dr. Mike Parsons, a marine science professor at the Water School at FGCU, said there are several ideas about what can end a bloom.

In this case, researchers are waiting to see how cold weather can affect red tide with the recent drop in temperatures.

“One thing that’s come up a bit, especially this time of year and the fact that we’ve had some cold fronts coming through, is how does red tide respond to colder waters, and basically we’re in the sweet spot for its temperature right now,” Parsons said.

Regardless, Giannasi said, his restaurant is holding its own.

“Everyone’s still being cautious around here, but they’re still coming out and we’re doing some good distancing in the restaurant and keeping people as safe as possible, but it’s been pretty good.”

To check on current red tide conditions, go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for their daily update.

If you would like to report a fish kill, you can do so by visiting the FWC’s Fish Kill Hotline

MORE: DOH-Lee issues health alert for red tide along Lee County coast

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Melissa Montoya
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