SWFL fishermen assure consumers about seafood quality amid red tide

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson
Published: Updated:

The Southwest Florida community grows more concerned about the effects of red tide every day, raising questions about air quality, solutions, and seafood.

Customers are turning away from seafood, fearful that the fish they eat are swimming in the same water that is killing thousands of fish on our beaches.

But the fishermen who catch the fish say that’s not necessarily the case, as they are traveling miles off the coast to find fish that are safe to eat.

Businesses that profit solely on seafood sales like Casey Streeter’s Pine Island Seafood Market are taking quite a hit.

Streeter says common uncertainties and perceptions amid the water crisis have scared consumers and hurt sales.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about where the fish are caught and the locations and areas that we’re fishing,” he says.

WINK News boarded a fishing boat with Streeter and local fisherman, Evan Hermandez, to travel out into the Gulf about 35 miles offshore. This is where they catch their fish, from deep blue water far away from algal blooms and red tide.

“They think we’re getting our fish inshore, out of the river you know, and it’s completely opposite of that,” Hermandez said.

In fact, they travel an average of 30 to 130 miles offshore.

“If we fished in the red tide areas we wouldn’t catch any fish, because obviously the fish are being killed, or they’ve been pushed to deeper water,” Streeter said.

Many residents and visitors say they don’t trust the fish, but local providers want you to know that they are catching good fish.

“This is our livelihood you know, this is how we make our money,” Hermandez said.

Streeter says contrary to the inshore fishing sites that are hard-hit by red tide, miles off shore they continue to see healthy numbers.

“These areas were founded with commercial fishing,” Streeter said. “There’s generational families that are out here doing this and to not be able to enjoy seafood when you come to Florida is a crime in itself.”

The Pine Island fishermen say they are in talks with NOAA about what red tide is doing to fish population numbers closer to shore.

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