After picking up more than 240 tons of dead fish, county wants your help with red tide cleanup

Manatee County holds press conference to update response to red tide

County officials held a press conference Monday to update their response to the fish kills from red tide in the area.
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County officials held a press conference Monday to update their response to the fish kills from red tide in the area.

Manatee County officials want volunteers to take the leading role in cleaning up the dead fish left by red tide’s assault on local beaches and waterways.

As of Monday, the county had already collected about 241 tons of red tide-related debris left on Manatee County beaches, parks and waterways, cleaning up the majority of fish kills, officials announced during a news conference.

With bulk of the cleanup done, the county has ended its contract with Aptim, an environmental consultant agency that undertook the task of cleaning the fish kills from canals and other waterways and shores in the county. Just under $250,000 of the $750,000 grant the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has committed to Manatee County, has been spent to date on clean-up efforts.

“We’re now going into a maintenance mode,” County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said. “We have had a nice strong east breeze, keeping things off the shoreline. We can only hope that it stays that way for the foreseeable future until the red tide goes away.”

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The county will continue removing dead fish and other debris left on Anna Maria Island beaches.

Manatee County contracted with a company to help clean up red tide stricken canals. They started in creeks and canals in the southern part of the county, which feed into Sarasota Bay.

As part of a neighborhood and volunteer-based maintenance program, “Nets to Neighbors,” the county will provide nets and buckets to residents. The county already has 200 nets and buckets that it began distributing to homeowner and condo associations in Bayshore Gardens, Coral Shores, Trailer Estates and Wild Oak Bay. Another 300 buckets and nets will be received on Wednesday and made available at G.T. Bray Park and 15 other locations where the county has set special dumpsters to collect the debris.

“Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint,” Hunzeker said. “We have no idea how, or how long, this exercise will continue but we are committed to assisting neighborhoods and neighbors with volunteers and equipment.”

The location of those dumpsters are:

  • Anna Maria Bayfront Park.

  • Bayshore Gardens (Big Fish parking lot).

  • Bowlees Creek (Sara Bay Marina parking lot).

  • Coquina Bayside.

  • North Boat Ramp.

  • Coquina Bayside South Boat Ramp.

  • Coquina Gulfside South (off the 1300 Gulf Drive Parking lot).

  • Coral Shores (Coral Boulevard near Kingston Road.)

  • Kingfish Boat Ramp.

  • Longboat Key Boat Ramp.

  • Manatee Beach.

  • Palma Sola Causeway Park.

  • Trailer Estates (on Park Lane).

  • Warner’s Bayou Ramp.

  • Wild Oak Bay Community (one on either end of Wild Oak Bay Boulevard)

Residents in Manatee County’s Whitfield/Bayshore Gardens neighborhood woke up to thousands of dead fish and a dead shark in their backyards in Bowlees Creek after the red tide carnage started to flow into the waterway from Sarasota Bay Wednesday.

The waste in the majority of the dumpsters is taken daily, according to Parks and Grounds Operations Manager Carmine DeMillio. The rest of the dumpsters are on a call-in basis.

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Should conditions worsen, the county says it will readdress it plan. The red tide hotline activated by the county will no longer be staffed on the weekends, but calls will still be answered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday. Residents can reach that hotline at: 941-749-3547.

Volunteers donned masks and gloves to help clean dead fish and sea life from the shores of Palma Sola Causeway Wednesday morning.

The county’s Department of Parks and Natural Resources will host another cleanup event of the Palma Sola Causeway from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday. Volunteers are asked to come to the Palma Sola Causeway boat ramp where they will be provided with masks, buckets .latex glove.s and pitchforks. It is suggested that volunteers wear closed-toed shoes and clothes that they don’t mind getting wet or messy.

Red tide debris is being taken to the county landfill, and is covered and buried every night with dirt, according to Hunzeker.

“If there is a residual smell, well, I guess we’ll apologize but there is not much more we can do,” he said.

The news that the county had ended it’s contract with Aptim came as a surprise to Vince Friedel, president of the Wild Oak Bay Homeowners Association. The association has spent $9,000 hiring local fisherman through the Cortez Fisherman Association to pick up thousands of dead fish pushed up against the Sarasota Bay shoreline in front of several condo buildings in the community.

“The county said they couldn’t get in because it was too shallow, but yet the fisherman came in with their flat-bottom boats and did it,” Friedel said.

Cleaning an additional portion of the shore, near Bayside Drive, would cost an additional $13,000, which was too much for the community. Friedel said he was told Friday that the county was considering Aptim clean that area. He was told to expect a decision by Monday morning but had not heard anything as of mid-afternoon.

“I guess they made their decision,” Friedel said.

You can follow Jessica De Leon on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.