Even with red tide conditions improving this week, FWC continues to report high ‘bloom concentrations’ of algae in Sarasota County

City of Sarasota initiates cleaning of park shorelines and rights of way

Although red tide conditions have fluctuated over the past week, the most recent updates from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have continued to show high counts of bloom concentrations in and offshore of Sarasota County.

In its March 10 report, FWC noted that bloom concentrations — those containing more than 100,000 cells of the red tide algae Karenia brevis per liter of water — had been detected in 89 samples along Florida’s Gulf Coast over the seven days leading up to the issuance of that report. Of those, the highest number was from Sarasota County: 32. Pinellas County had the second highest number: 24.

FWC also noted eight bloom concentration samples in Manatee County, six in Charlotte County, nine in Lee County and eight in Collier County.

In the most recent FWC update — issued on March 15 — the agency reported bloom concentrations in 62 samples, including 17 in and offshore of Sarasota County, which were collected over the prior seven days. Thus, the March 15 total for Sarasota County was almost exactly half of the March 10 figure.

Further, FWC noted 24 bloom concentration samples collected in and offshore of Pinellas County; two in Manatee County; three offshore of Hillsborough County; three in Charlotte County; three in and offshore of Pasco County; six in Lee County; and four in Collier County.

The Karenia brevis concentrations were found over the past seven days at background to medium levels in and offshore of Sarasota County, FWC added in the new report.

Additionally, a Sarasota News Leader search of fish kill data between March 5 and March 16 found 19 reports from Sarasota County. The most recent ones were dated March 8, when dead fish were observed in Hudson Bayou in Sarasota, the Gulf of Mexico, Sarasota Bay, South Creek at Osar Scherer State Park, and Lyons Bay Canal in Nokomis.

Additionally, both the March 10 and March 15 updates cited reports of respiratory irritation suspected to be associated with red tide in Sarasota, Manatee, Pinellas, Pasco, Lee, and Collier counties over the week leading up to the issuance of that update.

Late in the afternoon of March 15 and on the morning of March 16, the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) showed only very low levels of red tide along the Sarasota County coastline.

A GCOOS model run at 3 p.m. on March 15 forecast the conditions to remain the same at Siesta Beach, for one example, through 8 p.m. on March 16. At 5 p.m. on March 15, the model showed, the wind was blowing at 8 knots out of the north on Siesta.

For another example, the March 16 forecast for the Venice Fishing Pier — which said the model was run at 9 a.m. that day — showed “Very low” risk of red tide conditions at that site. The wind was predicted to be blowing out of the east at 13 knots by 11 a.m.

However, the harmful algal bloom (HAB) forecast produced on March 15 by the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida, in collaboration with FWC, forecast low to medium concentrations of Karenia brevis along the county’s coastline through March 18.

City and County of Sarasota updates

A March 14 update from Sarasota County staff said that monitoring of the county’s beaches that morning showed improvements in the red tide situation, with Lido Key experiencing the greatest impacts.

The report added that on Monday, March 13, and Tuesday, March 14, routine mechanical beach raking occurred on Siesta Public Beach. Because of equipment issues, the report explained, the regular raking operations were shifted from Lido Key to Siesta Beach on March 14. Raking on Lido was planned for March 15, it noted.

On March 15 on the county government’s Facebook page, staff again noted improved conditions. That post also reminded the public that the results of beach conditions monitoring can be found on the county’s Red Tide Dashboard: http://bit.ly/3Fq05aN. “This dashboard is updated daily by 11 a.m. and can be accessed at any time,” the post added. “As a reminder,” the post also said, “Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources staff uses this reference when reporting conditions on public beaches.”

In response to issues on the City of Sarasota’s shoreline, city staff announced on March 9 that red tide marine debris cleanup would begin soon in city parks and along rights of way. Further, the news release pointed out, special garbage collections are being made available for city residents who have been picking up dead fish on private property.

“Residents are asked to double-bag the marine debris collected and contact the Solid Waste Division in advance for a special courtesy pickup on a Wednesday or Saturday,” the release said. “Please call 941-263-6170 to make arrangements,” it added.

Workers with Ceres Environmental Services Inc., a debris management company on standby with the city, soon would be removing dead fish and other marine debris from the following city parks and rights of way, the release noted:

  • Bayfront Park/O’Leary’s.
  • Bird Key Park.
  • Centennial Park/10thSt. Boat Ramp.
  • Ernest “Doc” and Eloise Werlin Park.
  • Hart’s Landing..
  • Indian Beach Park
  • Ken Thompson Park (boat ramp, fishing piers, playground area).
  • New Pass.
  • Nora Patterson Bay Island Park North Park.
  • Sapphire Shores Park.
  • Tony Saprito Fishing Pier.
  • Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
  • Whitaker Gateway Park.

“Crews will remove the debris by hand along the shoreline and by boat in some waterways,” the release explained.

On the city’s Facebook page, a March 13 post showed workers at various locations, including Bayfront Park. The post said, “At this writing, the amount of debris they’re encountering is relatively low. That could change, though, as the wind and tides change. We will continue to monitor conditions closely and respond accordingly.”

Further, the March 9 city news release reminded the public that Mote Marine Laboratory provides a daily beach conditions report, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission posts current statewide red tide status reports.
To report marine turtles, dolphins, manatees and whales that appear to have been affected by red tide, the release encouraged the public to call the FWC hotline: 1-888-404-FWCC (3922). “You can also dial #FWC or *FWC,” the release added.

For situations involving fish, the release continued, persons should call 1-800-636-0511 or submit a report online.