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Burning eyes, dead fish; red tide flares up on the Florida coast


SARASOTA, Florida (AP) — Residents complain of burning eyes and difficulty breathing. Dead fish have washed up on the beaches. A festival on the beach has been canceled, even though it was only scheduled for a month.

Florida’s southwest coast experienced a flare-up of the toxic red tide algae this week, sparking fears it could stick around for a while. The current bloom started in October.

The annual BeachFest in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, sponsored by a homeowners association, was canceled after it was determined with help from the city and the Pinellas County Health Department that the red tide was likely to persist into the middle of next month, when the festival is scheduled.

“Red Tide currently has a presence on the beach and is expected to remain in the area for the next several weeks,” the Indian Rocks Beach Homeowners Association said in a letter to the public. “It is a pity that it had to be canceled, but it is the best decision in the interest of public health.”

Nearly two tons of trash, mostly dead fish, was cleared from Pinellas County beaches and taken to the landfill, county spokesman Tony Fabrizio said. the Tampa Bay Times. About 454 pounds of fish have been culled from the beaches of St. Pete Beach since the beginning of the month, Mandy Edmunds, a park manager with the city, told the newspaper.

Red tide, a toxic algal bloom that occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico, is made worse by the presence of nutrients such as nitrogen in the water. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission warns people not to swim in or around red tide waters because of the potential for skin irritation, rashes, and burning and sore eyes. People with asthma or lung disease should avoid beaches affected by the toxic algae.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported Friday that it found red tide in 157 samples along Florida’s Gulf Coast, with the strongest concentrations along Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.