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City of Sarasota crews to soon start cleaning up dead sea life from red tide

Sarasota Health Department officials lifted the '"no swim advisory" for Bird Key Park Beach Friday afternoon.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Mounting red tide concerns have local leaders turning to residents for help to manage the disposal of all the dead fish washed up on shorelines.

This comes as thousands across the Tampa Bay area have planned for spring break. Now many of them may now reconsider their plans for a relaxing trip to the beach.

Sarasota Health Department officials lifted the "no swim advisory" for Bird Key Park Beach Friday afternoon. But the red tide is still present at moderate levels.

The City of Sarasota has notified contractors to start sweeping up all the decaying marine life. Contractors have to mobilize their equipment and teams and have not determined what date the clean-up will begin. Health officials have urged people to avoid going into water impacted by red tide and to avoid coming into contact with dead animals.

"The Department of Health recommends that nobody touch any of the dead sea life. Just leave it alone to be safe," Environmental Health Director Tom Higginbotham said.

All 16 Sarasota County beaches are still impacted by red tide and have a lot of dead fish littering the area.

While city contractors have been notified to start collecting marine debris county officials will maintain the regular beach cleaning schedule as there's not enough fish kill to deploy additional clean-up crews.  

Health officials said prolonged exposure to the red tide toxins should be limited especially for those with respiratory health issues.

"Some people can go and really don't experience other people have severe symptoms so you have to really listen to your body and your body saying I don't like this best thing to do is to leave the beach," Higginbotham said.

Some impacted business owners are forced to work around the challenges to their bottom line.  

"It's been unfortunately trash cans full of them," Greg Corvelle of Marina Jack Restaurant said.

"Once we lose it for the day, you don't get it back to for the next day so the revenue is gone and it's our busiest month of the whole entire year," Corvelle said. 

Waterfront businesses like Marina Jack are taking charge of some of the cleaning up on their property. 

"The hardest part was when it initially happened, they kind of build up a little bit but once you get it to a good point, and we maintain every day, it's a little bit easier," he said.

Health department officials said the beaches are never closed and they only recommend that people take precautions if they choose to go into the water with red tide.

In addition, city waste management officials are asking people to double bag any dead sea life that washes up on their private property ahead of pick up.

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