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Newest red tide report: 'Most encouraging that we've seen in quite a while'

Dead fish are still washing ashore on Pinellas County beaches. In spite of that, the most recent report shows conditions are improving.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County received a new red tide report, sampling beaches along the coast. The county communications director said this is the most encouraging report the county has seen in a while.

"All of the sampling from Madeira Beach to Fred Howard Park showed no red tide presence," said Tony Fabrizio. "We did have low to medium concentrations from Treasure Island to Fort Desoto."

On the county website, there are resources to show the impacts of red tide, including a respiratory forecast. That forecast looks at three factors: the presence of the red tide organism Karenia brevis, wind direction, and wind intensity.

"If you have a strong onshore wind," said Fabrizio. "It's going to be blowing right at you, you're probably going to notice it."

The Florida Wildlife Commission oversees educational campaigns surrounding red tide. Most of which is done online. FWC's website is filled with resources to track, report, and forecast red tide conditions. Social media is also a well-used tool in informing the public of current conditions. 

"We have our own Facebook page and we update that regularly," said Dr. Kate Hubbard, a research scientist at FWC. 

When it comes to educating the public, FWC recruits locals to help in gathering samples for research and reports.

"We have a lot of commercial fishermen, other folks, that will collect samples for us," said Hubbard.

But, offline, there aren't many resources to inform people of red tide. Hubbard said there are signs posted at public beach access points. And, that's about it. 

"It's something we are always trying to improve," she said. "We're always trying to get the message out, we're always to think about different ways we can reach different people that are going to be recreating."

For tourists visiting, those signs are often ignored, leaving them to learn about red tide firsthand.

"Being that this is the first I've heard of it, and this is a pretty random circumstance to walk up to a reporter asking about red tide. No, there is a zero education from a public perspective," said Jim Huseman. He and his family were visiting Pass-A-Grille beach from Indiana. 

Although dead fish and other marine life lined the shore, Huseman had no clue what red tide was, or that it was present. 

"If there's a public health risk, I feel like there should be a prominent display letting people know, without a whole lot of guesswork as far as what's going on in the waters and the sand."

A display bigger than the current signage. Huseman said he walked right past the red tide sign, not even noticing it.

Hubbard said FWC is working on connecting with hotels and AirBNB's to better inform tourists of red tide, its symptoms, and how to best plan a beach day.    

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