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Thousands of dead fish are clogging these Manatee canals. Residents are demanding action

At Coral Shores, red tide ‘hits you like a wall’

Thousands of dead fish in the canals of Coral Shores in Bradenton are stinking up the area and making life outdoors miserable. Bobby Woodson describes the impact.
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Thousands of dead fish in the canals of Coral Shores in Bradenton are stinking up the area and making life outdoors miserable. Bobby Woodson describes the impact.

The effects of red tide are hitting home for these Bradenton residents — and they’re not happy.

In fact, their anger has reached a breaking point as tons of dead fish continue to pile up throughout canals in the Coral Shores neighborhood along Cortez Road.

Homeowners in the area say the effect red tide has on their neighborhood is the worst it’s been in years.

Beth Beck lamented what she called a lack of action from government officials. Just a few feet from her pool, a couple thousand fish came to rest at the end of the neighboring waterway. The stench that rose from the aggregation of decomposing fish forced lawn care workers to cover their faces with their shirts Tuesday.

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Thousands of dead fish sit in a canal behind a home in Coral Shores, rotting and smelling. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

“I’ve got a different kind of cough. This isn’t normal,” said Beck, who has lived in the area for 32 years. “It’s so bad that my rib cage hurts. This isn’t my first red tide but it’s by far the worst.”


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Bobby Woodson, owner of the Tide Tables, lives in the Coral Shores neighborhood as well and said red tide is affecting his home and work life. The restaurant is closed for its annual cleaning, but even before that, he said he was forced to shut down his outdoor seating area.

“I didn’t want my customers out there in those conditions, but I did it for my employees, too,” Woodson explained. “I didn’t want them out there working eight-hour shifts in that.”

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Thousands of dead fish sit in a canal behind a home in Coral Shores, rotting and smelling. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

The bright side, Woodson said, is that this time of the year is typically slow for his business anyway. Tide Tables reopens Friday but he acknowledged that red tide is likely to hang around for the foreseeable future.

“It’s anybody’s guess. I’ve lived here 54 years and it’s never been more than a few weeks at a time but you never know,” said Woodson.

On Cortez Beach, a few visitors from out of town said they felt misled by the owner of their rental. A warning about the beach conditions would’ve been a nice courtesy, they said.

More than a week into the the invasion of red tide on Manatee County beaches, it shows few signs of leaving, although cleanup crews reported finding fewer dead fish. Palma Sola Causeway on Monday was a stinky mess.

“We haven’t been treated honest. They should’ve said what was going on in the region,” said Ataide Braga, who visited Manatee with his wife and daughter from Gainesville.

Beck and Woodson both said they haven’t been notified of plans to clear the dead fish from the canals in their backyards. Woodson proposed blocking off the canals until red tide subsides a bit, but Beck demands the county come clear out the waterway.

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A sign warns visitors of the presence of red tide on Cortez Beach, Anna Maria Island, Tuesday. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

She said the issue has been that no agency wants to take responsibility for cleanup.

“It seems like there are six different groups that keep delegating the cleanup to others,” Beck said. “The Environmental Protection Agency says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has to do it and they say the county has to do it.”

At the end of the day, Beck argued, it doesn’t matter who comes out to collect the dead fish. A dedicated crew from the county would be her preferred outcome, though.

“I want to see the county come, by land or by water, with a large bucket — or numerous buckets — and clean it up,” Beck said. “We don’t need any more pointing of fingers.”

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Tide Tables restaurant at the foot of the Cortez Bridge, first closed their outside tables to protect the employees and visitors from the effects of red tide, then closed completely for a deep cleaning. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

Beach cleanup efforts continued Tuesday morning with the use of two raking tractors and a bulldozer carrying away huge masses of dead fish.

“We’re going by as often as we have to. If we have to go sunup to sundown, we will,” said Liza Click, supervisor of Manatee County property management.

County officials have said they’re working as fast as they can to keep dead fish off of the island’s beach, which even includes lining dumpsters with lime to help suppress the smell. County staff said in a Tuesday meeting that they currently lack the staff to clean out residential waterways.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday for a few southwest Florida counties dealing with the effects of red tide. The order includes emergency funding for research, business and cleanup efforts.

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