‘This is catastrophic’: Charter captain speaks out about red tide impact in SWFL

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‘This is catastrophic’: Charter captain speaks out about red tide impact in SWFL

Dead manatees, goliath grouper, sea turtles and thousands of other fish have washed ashore in Southwest Florida.

Charter Captain Chris ONeill posted multiple videos on Facebook about the impact of a strong red tide bloom — the strongest he’s seen in about 15 years.

“This is catastrophic. This is something that’s impacting a whole population of the fishery and it needs to be addressed,” he said.

ONeill is calling on lawmakers to find a solution to the devastating impact red tide is having on marine life. A video he shared Tuesday on Boca Grande Beach has been shared over 38,000 times and has 1.2 million views.

Tarpon can be a major economic driver for the region, but ONeill worries the fishing industry will feel the impact of this red tide for seasons to come.

“Boca grande pass is the tarpon capital of the world,” he said. “You normally see 50 to 100 boats out in that pass fishing tarpon. Right now, we’ve seen none for a week.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed that seven manatees have died this year due toxic algae.

That number is in addition to 43 unrelated manatee deaths — putting Southwest Florida on pace for a record deadly year for manatees.

“It should be a state of emergency right now at least. If not the state or federal level need to address this problem and get it under control,” he said.

Residents worry red tide will also impact tourism in the area.

“It’s a shame ’cause that’s what people come to Florida for, for the beaches and it’s not going to happen now,” beachgoer Jill Bishop said.

For the latest red tide map, click here. 

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