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By the numbers: Red tide's impact in Pinellas County

Tons of dead fish have been cleaned up and millions more dollars have been allocated in the fight against red tide as the outbreak hits hard in Pinellas County.
Credit: 10News
Business owners are battling the perception that all of Pinellas County beaches are devastated by red tide.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — FWC will release its latest red tide report later today, but you don’t have to wait for that to know just how much conditions have worsened in recent days in Pinellas County.

Here's a look at red tide's impact in Pinellas County by the numbers:

Cleanup efforts

  • 324 tons: That's approximately how much dead marine life the county reports has been picked up and hauled away since Sept. 7.
  • 18 boats: That's how many contractors hired by the county have worked off or near the shoreline trying to collect as much dead fish as possible before it reaches land, with 12 boats focused on the Intracoastal Waterways.
  • $1.3 million: That's how much money Pinellas County will receive from the state following another round of funding approved by Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, bringing the total amount the state has spent on red tide to $13 million.

CONTINUING: See our complete red tide coverage here

Economic impact

  • 14: The number of hotels that have started sharing data on cancellations and monetary losses with Visit St. Pete Clearwater, the county's tourism division, according to spokesperson Mackenzie Monteiro.

Losses being report range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. Some have reported having to cut staff levels too.

  • 15: That's how many businesses have inquired about the Florida Emergency Bridge Loan, according to Stacey Swank with the Pinellas County Economic Development Office.

Qualifying small business with between 2-100 employees can request a loan for up to $50,000 which will remain interest-free for the first 180 days.

5: That's how many businesses have applied for the Florida Emergency Bridge Loan, as of Tuesday.

But the true economic impact is not yet known, Swank said. Whether businesses are interested in taking out an emergency loan, all are being encouraged to report any financial losses or damages caused by red tide to the county.

Business can report losses by filling out the Business Damage Assessment Survey at FloridaDisaster.biz.

That data is reported to the state and then onto the federal government to determine potential need for future emergency declarations.

Swank says the next step is getting a federal emergency declaration for Pinellas County which activate the availability of low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. A spokesperson for the U.S. Small Business Administration confirmed to 10News that Gov. Scott has submitted a formal request.

Similar loans have already been made available to business in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Busted bottom lines

Of the few people trying to pay for parking at John's Pass on Wednesday, they were met with a message at the meter machines: "free parking due to red tide."

Business owners are hoping every little bit gets people to return even as red tide still lingers.

Ed Mahon has owned Yogurt City, a frozen yogurt shop in John's Pass, for a bout a year. He says he would seriously consider taking advantage of emergency loans being offered in order to make ends meet after admitting he's even had to dip into his personal savings to stay open.

“I would take advantage of it in the blink of an eye absolutely, I need it to survive," Mahon said.

Mahon says during the slow season he usually averages about $300-500 in sales daily. But yesterday he only made $31.

"Everybody expects September to be slow—people are going back to school and summer vacations are over—so we expect it to be slow, but the red tide came in and killed whatever business was left," he said.

Common questions

Where does all the dead fish go? Dead fish removed from the water goes to the incinerator while any dead marine life removed from the beaches go to the landfill because sand caused operation issues for the incinerator, according to Pinellas County Environmental Management director Kelli Levy.

Dead dolphin, sea turtles or manatee are reported to FWC which has a different protocol for collection and disposal.

Is the seafood impacted safe to eat? The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says if you know the fish is from a red tide area it’s best to avoid eating it. FWC says do not eat clams, oysters and mussels and never eat dead or distressed animals, especially in the red tide area. Here's a more in-depth explanation about what you should do when it comes to shellfish, scallops and finfish.

RELATED: Is seafood impacted by red tide safe to eat?

If you're buying fish from a grocery store or restaurant, FWC says those places test for toxins so shellfish and fish should be safe.

What are the beaches like right now? Current beach conditions are being updated at least twice daily on the Visit St. Pete Clearwater website, here.

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