Red tide hit hard at Robinson Preserve. This part of the recovery will start there

The release of thousands of redfish into local waters has been determined by Manatee County officials. The joint effort is meant to revitalize an ecosystem that was devastated by red tide.

The county has partnered with the Coastal Conservation Association Florida, Duke Energy and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to host a fish release at Robinson Preserve at 11 a.m. on Feb. 26. Organizers say they plan to release 2,000 juvenile and 30 adult redfish, and are hoping Gov. Ron DeSantis will be in attendance.

Brian Gorski, CCA executive director, previously told the Bradenton Herald that his organization would be working with the county for a fish release but wanted to ensure the governor could make it.

“The only reason we don’t have a release date yet is because we are in the process of trying to get Gov. DeSantis to come to that,” he told the Herald on Feb. 5. “As soon as he says he can come, we’ll pick that date.”

Robinson Preserve, 1704 99th Street NW, Bradenton, was the location of a ‘heartbreaking’ fish kill in December that left thousands of mullet dead. For the past few weeks, however, concentrations of red tide algae have been clear across the state of Florida, according to official FWC reports.

While red tide’s presence is gone from the area, the aftermath of hundreds tons of fish wiped away by the harmful algae is still being felt. Local fisherman and experts alike have reported a significant decline in fish population across the board. The release of thousands of redfish is meant to alleviate that issue.

Brian Gorski, executive director of Coastal Conservation Association, showing off some of the thousands of redfish released recently in Tampa Bay area waters. Photo provided

According to a news release, the fish that are to be released were donated from the Duke Mariculture Center’s hatchery in Crystal River. Officials say the event will also be a conservation effort to promote the redfish catch-and-release rule in effect until May 10.

“The redfish we are donating will have a long-term positive impact in the affected areas and we are proud to play a small part in the solution to the recent red tide occurrence,” said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida president, in a statement.

Organizations have already joined forces to release more than 8,000 redfish in Southwest Florida in the month of February. Another 6,000 are planned for release in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties in March.

For more information, contact Teresa Donaldson at (407) 923-3530 or tdonaldson@ccaflorida.org.

The Manatee County CCA is also throwing its annual banquet, which is a fundraiser to support initiatives such as redfish releases, on Feb. 28 at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. Visit http://ccaflorida.org/chapter/manatee/ to register.

Ryan Callihan is the Bradenton Herald’s County Reporter, covering local government and politics. On the weekends, he also covers breaking news. Ryan is a graduate of USF St. Petersburg.
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