Fewer visitors hit the beach on holiday weekend as red tide lingers

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson
Published: Updated:
Aerial drone footage over Fort Myers Beach on Aug. 21, 2018.

On Fort Myers Beach Saturday, visitors were enjoying the sun and sand, but businesses and marine life are still taking a big hit from red tide.

Rylee Schimmel was visiting the beach Saturday, “Today we are very lucky, it’s a lot better. It’s still here a little bit but there’s a lot more people in the water”

Those who have seen red tide’s impact on Fort Myers Beach have seen the thousands of dead fish washing ashore over the last couple months.

Businesses are happy to see beachgoers on Labor Day, But for visitors like Ann McCarthy who’s on vacation here, The number of people on the beach is still far from the average for a big holiday weekend, “I don’t see a lot of people like I expected to see, so yeah, I can see where the economy is really hurting.”

NOAA has opened an investigation into the unusual number of dolphin deaths. 48 dolphins have died along the Gulf Coast, with 10 testing positive for red tide toxins from July 1 to August 30.

Winds from a tropical wave coming through on Labor Day could help. Mote Marine researchers say sustained offshore winds help keep the red tide away from the shoreline.

Marine science experts at Florida Gulf Coast University say red tide cells are fragile and if the waves got big enough it could break the cells apart.

They say although the expected heavy rain should knock the airborne toxins down. Large amounts of rainfall in a short period of time result in more surface water flowing into waterways destined for the coast carrying additional nutrients, potentially helping the red tide persist.

Scientists are still studying the impacts of rainwater and the increased release from Lake O has on red tide.

They say the weather system has to be significant to stir up the water and possibly disperse the red tide cells.

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