The fishing and seafood industries affected by the red tide

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WASHINGTON – A serious outbreak of red tide and large fish being killed off the coast of St. Petersburg is raising concerns over the state’s fishing and seafood industry.


What would you like to know

  • The US Department of Commerce recently denied Florida disaster aid for fisheries affected by the 2018 red tide
  • Sens Scott and Rubio are unhappy with the move
  • Business owners worry about another similar success in 2018

It is the worst algal bloom since 2018, when the rising tide killed around 2,000 tonnes of marine life and caused millions of dollars in trade losses.

“What we are seeing now are the impacts of possibly dead fish floating more and more on the water,” said Karen Bell, owner of AP Bell Fish Co.

Bell knows that the family-owned fish wholesale and retail business operates at the mercy of nature. The red tide is of particular concern to the company, which employs 25 workers in Cortez and 100 fishermen.

“What I correlate with the red tide is the lack of production,” Bell said in an interview with Spectrum News. “At the moment they are not taking any inshore species. And I think it has to do with the red tide.”

In their most recent sampling, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission identified a red tide around Tampa Bay ranging from very low in some places to high concentrations in others.

Bell wonders if the company is about to take a hard hit, as it did following a serious algae bloom three years ago.

“It was really tough for us – 2018 was tough,” she said. “There were weeks when there was no coastal production at all.

“The Bay Guys must have traveled much further, literally 50 miles north or 50 miles south. “

The U.S. Department of Commerce recently denied Florida disaster assistance for fisheries affected by the 2018 red tide.

“The secretary made her decisions based on scientific analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing that the percentage of lost income was not large enough to indicate that a commercial fishery failure has occurred. “said Kate Goggin, spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries, which is under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Commerce.

“Analysis of the available information suggests that the 2018 and 2019 red mullet, red grouper and stone crab fisheries experienced a sudden and unexpected decrease in biomass which resulted in loss of access to the fishery, and was very probably the result of the red tide events, ”Goggin said.

“However, the loss of income for mullet and red grouper in these counties was small (less than 35%). While the loss of income for stone crab in these counties was slightly higher, the landings data indicate that stone crab fishermen have moved to other fisheries in other areas to mitigate the loss of income in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties, ”she added.“ Based on these findings, the percentage of lost income in these counties is not large enough to indicate that a commercial fishery failure has occurred for the mullet, red grouper or stone crab fishery as a whole. “

Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio blow up the decision.

In a statement, Rubio called it “a clearly political decision that risks serious consequences for the economies of the communities directly affected”.

Scott’s office said the damage to Florida fishermen and seafood producers between 2015 and 2019 was immense.

“Secretary Raimondo’s decision was a mistake, and Senator Scott will continue to work with the entire Florida delegation on the way forward,” said Sarah Schwirian, spokesperson for Scott.

As for Bell, she said federal assistance would be helpful. However, she said her business will adapt to whatever nature gives her and last as it always has.

“I don’t tend to dwell on the negative if I can help myself, especially things beyond my control,” she said. “But again, we’ll be careful, we’ll do our best.”


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