More than three tons of dead fish have washed up on southwest Florida’s beaches over the past two weeks, and residents’ eyes are burning.

They’re also reporting breathing problems as a red tide that started in October and flared up anew this week lingered, with no signs of dying down soon.

The toxic red tide algae bloom even prompted a homeowners’ association to cancel its annual “BeachFest” for next month after the city and Pinellas County Health Department said the red tide would still be in play.

Red tide is observed at Clearwater Beach, Fla., during a flight with SouthWings volunteers on Friday, March 10, 2023. Florida's southwest coast experienced a flare-up of the toxic red tide algae this week, setting off concerns that it could continue to stick around for a while.

“Red Tide is currently present on the beach and is forecasted to remain in the area in the weeks to come,” the Indian Rocks Beach Homeowners Association said in a letter to the public. “It is unfortunate that it had to be canceled but it is the best decision in the interest of public health.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it had found the Karenia brevis organism, which causes red tide, in 157 samples taken along the state’s Gulf coast.

Carmine DeMilio, who heads the red tide cleanup efforts as the operations manager for Manatee County Parks, told the Bradenton Herald that it “started getting intense” about two weeks ago. His staff has collected about 3.5 tons of dead fish since then, combing the sand with beach rake tractors and collecting dead fish from the water with skimmer boats.

“We start at 5 in the morning and go till around 11:30,” DeMilio told the Bradenton Herald. “By that time, the beachgoers are on the beach, and it’s hard to maneuver.”

With News Wire Services

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