From: Associated Press
Published September 14, 2005 12:00 AM

Red Tide Blamed for Fish Kills in Florida

NAPLES, Fla. — A tenacious red tide bloom that has lingered in the Gulf of Mexico off Tampa Bay all year now is being blamed for recent fish kills 100 miles off southwest Florida, state biologists said.


Tests of samples taken Monday confirmed the presence of the toxic algae that can be deadly to fish, said Jeremy Lake, spokesman for the Florida Marine Research Institute in St. Petersburg.


Strong westerly breezes are aggravating the problem by washing the dead fish ashore and causing some respiratory problems for people, he said.


"The red tide is there, but in low concentrations," Lake said.


Crews in both counties have been cleaning up hundreds of dead fish every day from the beaches since last week, officials said. In some places, fish were washing up as fast as workers could remove them.


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The massive red tide bloom that has plagued coastal waters this year from Honeymoon Island north of Clearwater to south of Sarasota has been extra toxic and deadly to sea life, scientists say, the worst in more than 30 years.


Fish, sand dollars, sponges, crabs, coral and other undersea life suffocated as the red tide -- this strain is called Karenia brevis -- choked off the oxygen in the water. Bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, manatees and birds that swim through it, inhale the nerve-impairing toxins in the surf spray or eat contaminated fish also have perished.


Divers and fishermen have reported a 2,000-square-mile "dead zone" void of undersea life off Pinellas County, where the worst of the red tide is concentrated.


Source: Associated Press


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