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Worst red tide outbreak in decades hurts Florida's economy, tourism

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
September 04, 2018, 2:34:51 PM EDT

The longest red tide outbreak for the west coast of Florida in over a decade is killing wildlife and hurting business and tourism on the Gulf shores of the Sunshine State.

The red tide is affecting nearby businesses and much larger marine life than what usually suffers from the toxic algae. People aren't heading to the beach or restaurants because the normally crystal clear water is murky, and the smell of rotting fish reeks.

Red Tide

In this Monday Aug. 6, 2018 photo, work crew clean up dead fish on Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in August for seven counties and allocated half a million dollars to the state’s tourism marketing corporation to help local communities bring in visitors, as well as $900,000 to Lee County to clean up the affected areas.

In a recently released survey, businesses in Sarasota County reported losses of up to 6 percent compared to last year, which they have attributed to the bloom.

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Visit Sarasota, the official tourism agency for Sarasota County, has conducted a survey of 450 businesses. The majority reported a collapse in revenue due to the fish kills and odor.

Of the 40 respondents to the survey, 95 percent reported losing business because of the red tide. The businesses surveyed reported losses of up to 6 percent the first week of August, compared with the same period last year, according to Visit Sarasota County.

In Sarasota, the survey found that dozens of local hotels had seen reservations canceled due to red tide concerns.

Red Tide, Dead Fish

In this Monday Aug. 6, 2018 file photo, dead fish are shown near a boat ramp in Bradenton Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

According to reports, many restaurants have been offering special deals and events to draw people back to the beach.

Star Fish Company, a Seafood Market and Dockside Restaurant in the fishing village of Cortez, Florida, offered 30 percent off of dine-in bills during certain days of the week.

Once a week, a food bank has been showing up to areas affected in order to feed the thousands of people affected by red tide.

What is red tide?
Florida governor declares state of emergency to combat worst red tide in over 10 years
Red tide outbreak triggers state of emergency in Florida as hundreds of marine mammals are dying

High concentrations of toxic algae, known as blooms, have affected at least 120 miles of the peninsula’s Gulf of Mexico coast since November 2017.


Dead manatee in Cape Coral, Florida. (Image via twitter/travisthompson)

More than 2,000 tons of dead marine animals have been cleared from the coast, according to cleanup reports. Since July, 267 tons of marine life, including thousands of small fish, dolphins, 72 Goliath groupers, sea turtles and a 21-foot whale shark have washed up on the beach.

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