Red tide has hit the Tampa bay area like a freight train. The beaches are full of dead fish and sea life. This is the worse red tide episode that anyone can remember. We’ve had it bad twice since we’ve lived here, back in 2005 and 2018. The smell can be really bad so we stay away from the beaches as most locals do. The beaches near the hotels get cleaned up daily during this time in hopes that the tourists can get out on the beaches. So far the area has picked up over 3 million pounds of dead sea life. These pictures were taken on 2 separate trips to a small beach near downtown St. Pete. The first trip was in early July and had just spotty fish on the beach. The 2nd trip was later in mid-July and they had raked the beach the day before but it was already getting full of fish.
This is nothing compared to what the news is showing. This year it’s not just dead bait fish. It’s also dolphins, manatees, stingrays, goliath groupers and the birds get sick if they eat the dead fish. The seabird rescues are full of sick birds.
Red tide is an algae bloom that is a natural phenomenon with records dating back to the 1800’s but both pollution and climate change appear to be making them worse. My dad had pictures of the dead fish when it happened back in the early 50’s. After leaks were detected this spring from a major wastewater reservoir at Piney Point, south of Tampa, people think that’s what is making this year’s red tide so much worse.
This little beach is usually packed with people on a Saturday morning. The winds were blowing from the west, towards the bay so the smell wasn’t bad but there were few people hanging around. The water looked dark and icky so there won’t be anyone swimming in that for a while.
Florida Fish and Wildlife keep a chart that is updated daily. This was the most recent one. Luckily we live up in the north Tampa channels where the gray circles are and it hasn’t hit us. At least not yet.
Walking out on the beach this past Saturday morning seemed like any other Saturday morning. There wasn’t a smell (since the wind was coming from the east or other side of the park). At first glance the beach seemed clean but weirdly void of any people. As I got closer to the water, that’s when I saw the signs of red tide. Red tide is a naturally occurring thing that happens in the gulf when the algae blooms and releases toxins that kill the sea life. The last big red tide event happened here in 2005. It was devastating to the sea life that year. Beaches south of us in Sarasota and Fort Myers have had red tide issues since early this year. It just reached my beach in the last few weeks. I had heard mixed reviews on how bad the dead fish were at the beach so I headed out to see what was going on. The day before, the park rangers had cleaned up 6 miles of beaches full of dead fish but fish keep coming flowing back on the beach with the waves.
Here is some scientific information on red tide.
This was the first time I had seen so many different crabs on the beach along the water. These camouflage crabs will eventually make their way back into the water. The ranger told me that crabs in general are not as affected by the red tide but it was weird to see them on the beach.
Lots of different ones on the beach including this crab that had a barnacle living on it.
While our beach has had a mild case of red tide so far, many of the beaches south of us had record numbers of dead dolphins and manatees turning up this summer.
There was a small fish kill on the lake due to the freeze we had for several nights in January. Even thought it got just below freezing here, the fish aren’t use to the cold and there was a small amount of fish floating near the trail per the last picture. The clean up crew (vultures) at Circle B Bar Reserve moved in quickly and were dragging the dead fish up on the trail and feasting away the weekend I was there. They didn’t even bother to move as we walked down the trail. Just kept eating.
The trees were full of fat and happy vultures.
Several alligators were up on the trail. The vultures didn’t move away when the alligators came up.
This was Momma pig right before she had her babies when she was hanging around the nature center. She walked by so close I could only get her face in. She has since had a litter. More on that to come.
The barred owls were still hiding under the palm tree in mid January. They have since moved to the nest in the hole in the tree.
Vultures are usually plentiful at Circle B Bar Reserve but in mid January the place was covered in them. They were in the trees all along Marsh Rabbit Run Trail and along the trail feasting on the dead fish. The smell was a little ripe in some places but they were busy cleaning up the place. I went back several weeks later and there was no sign of any dead fish.