PORT RICHEY, Fla. — More than 16,000 young and adult redfish are slated for release into the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay after one of the worst outbreaks of red tide killed hundreds of thousands of tons of marine life.

It's an effort to rejuvenate fisheries and their surrounding environments.

The Coastal Conservation Association Florida, partnering with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Duke Energy, began the process Tuesday.

They met at 11 a.m. at Brasher Park.

"We’re extremely excited to begin releasing these fish now that the waters are determined to be safe," Brian Gorski, CCA Florida's executive director, said in a news release. 

CCA Florida says each of its releases includes about 2,000 juvenile redfish and 25-30 adult fish. All were hatchery-reared at the Duke Energy Mariculture Center in Crystal River.

After working in Pasco County, crews plan to meet again Feb. 7 at Hillsborough County's Cockroach Bay Ramp in Ruskin and Pinellas County's Fort De Soto Park.

Release dates for Charlotte, Collier, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties still are to be determined.

"Our Mariculture Center advances environmental stewardship throughout the state by partnering with state/local agencies and universities on restoration projects," said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida president in the release. 

"The redfish we are donating will have long-term positive environmental impacts in the affected areas and we’re proud to play a small part in the solution to the recent red tide occurrence."

Red tide is considered a harmful algal bloom as its toxins can be harmful to marine life, birds and humans. 

FWC's latest report published Jan. 31 showed bloom concentrations at background levels in Manatee County, with higher levels southward. Red tide is not present in Hillsborough, Pasco or Pinellas counties.

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