You might have seen images circulating online showing thousands of dead fish on Florida beaches, killed by red tide. Officials are calling this summer's red tide along Florida’s southwest coast the worst in decades.
As dead fish pile up along the shores, that means fewer fish for charter boat captain Wayne Genthner, who relies on clean water for his tours. Genthner owns Wolfmouth Charters.
Many of his clients are from Europe.
“They’re not expecting catfish spines, dead tarpon and dead manatees. They come for something clean and fun, and the word about red tide is out,” he said.
While beaches like Siesta Key, Lido Key, Venice Jetty and Nokomis in Sarasota County are seeing massive fish kills, Genthner operates his business more than 20 miles away from the impacted area. He’s been doing this for more than 40 years. He knows Florida waterways inside and out and navigates clear of any jeopardized areas.
“Siesta Key has had heavy impacts all summer long. It’s been really disruptive to my business, but Siesta Key seems to be where all of the Europeans want to go,” he said. “My customers call me and say we’re just going to find different accommodations, or we’re going to do Disney World, or we are going to go to the Rocky Mountains.”
Genthner says his calls for tours this summer alone are down more than 50 percent.
“Red tide is scaring my customers away,” he said.
Dave Sims, manager of the Old Salty Dog, a restaurant on the water in Sarasota, is no stranger to red tide.
“It certainly impacts us when we have a fish kill. It settles in along the docks here and the smell is pretty bad. Recently, we haven’t seen it close to our restaurant,” Sims said. “No one has gotten up from our tables and said, ‘This is horrendous, we have to leave.’ that rarely happens.”
With videos circulating online, Marguerite Kinsella. who works as a host at the Old Salty Dog, says people ask about red tide daily. Kinsella is also an intern at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota.
“Everyone is asking every day here because they go to Siesta, they are further south. Everyone is concerned for their family, for their kids, and for themselves,” Kinsella said.
Like all acts of nature, there’s not much they can do.
Meantime, Genthner says he’s steering clear of red tide-filled waters and doing what he can to keep his business afloat.
“I do fishing tours. I do nature tours. I put people where fish and animals are. If I couldn’t do that I wouldn’t be in business,” Genthner said.
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