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Businesses worry as red tide levels increase in Pinellas County

After a tough year with COVID-19, beach shops worry about red tide slowing down or closing their businesses again.

TAMPA, Florida — Red tide has been detected along Pinellas County's coast.

According to Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's mid-week update, medium levels of the red tide organism were detected north of Redington Beach, while medium to low levels were discovered in the southern part of St. Pete Beach. 

Walking Indian Rocks Beach you can see small fish kills along the shoreline. 

It's bad news for businesses that are just starting to bounce back, like Nekton Surf Shop. The family-owned business was finally getting back to normal levels of business during spring break.

"It was great. We had lots of rentals going out. The beaches felt alive again," said Chris McDonald, manager at Nekton.

The shop completely closed down when COVID first hit. As things started to reopen, their rental business went up. The shop offers rentals for surfboards, skimboards, bicycles, kayaks, and paddleboards. It accounts for about half of their revenue. 

McDonald worries that rentals could go down again if red tide gets worse. 

"I actually had a guy this morning, who had rented one of our paddleboards for a week. And he was just saying that he was noticing the red tide, the smell, and also a little bit of hardness, like trouble breathing," said McDonald. "I gave him a refund. Because he had it for a week, and this was I think only three days in that he had it, and he was just nervous and didn't want to use it anymore. And I totally understood."

The loss of business could not be coming at a harder time.

"If red tide gets worse, that's going to just completely throw us back because not only is that going to prevent a lot of our rentals from going out. But you know, that's going to stop a lot of people from coming to the beach," said McDonald.

RELATED: How to check for red tide in your area

RELATED: Coughing at a Pinellas County beach? Red tide could be why

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