Officials say winds and waves overnight Thursday pushed more dead fish onto nearly every beach in Sarasota County. Friday, crews were spread across the entire coastline doing what they could to pick up the debris in what was a long week.
“It’s a pretty big event today,” Sarasota County Parks & Recreation Manager George Tatge said, standing on Nokomis Beach Friday.
The red tide outbreak had him setting up every resource he has — a small army to pick up a massive amount of dead sea creatures.
“The cold front that came through has left a sizable amount of large fish on our beaches,” he said.
By early morning workers had already scouted the 30-plus miles of coastline in the county. Because wet sand is considered public access, officials took advantage of low tide to get to some private beaches inundated with dead fish.
“At Manasota Key it is handwork by county staff,” Tatge said. “At the north beaches it is mechanized work. Right here we have both county staff and the work offenders.”
He was even considering hiring outside help because the fish are a nuisance to health, safety and the tourist dollar. Many tourism hot spots were as empty as could be on a clear blue day.
“It is certainly not something we want in our tourist locations,” he said. “We do those first.”
Some visitors, like Joe Tryzna from Chicago, said the shifting winds made breathing on the beach Friday bearable.
“Yesterday was terrible,” he said. You could not breath on the beach. You coughed and sneezed and your eyes ran. Today is perfect that way anyway.”
The red tide was nearly unnoticeable — if not for the fish and their smell.
“Gosh, you have to get rid of them,” he said.
Whether by machine or hand, removing the fish is a tedious process with no definite end in sight, said Tatge.
“Hopefully, our beaches will be clean of fish by the end of the day. That is what we are shooting for,” he said. “We will work through the weekend and rotate those crews depending on where they are best needed.”