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Some Tampa Bay area counties spent millions dealing with red tide this summer

For weeks, high levels of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, were detected offshore of some of the most popular beaches.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — All is calm along Tampa Bay area beaches this holiday season. But, it wasn't too long ago that shorelines were littered with thousands of dead sea life.

Red tide hit the region hard this summer, a plague that filled the air with rotting fish flesh. And, the areas that saw the worst of it were Pinellas and Manatee counties.

For weeks, high levels of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, were detected offshore of some of the most popular beaches. That led to not only tons of dead sea life sitting on beaches and near marinas, but millions of dollars in cleanup efforts. 

Pinellas County said by the time red tide began subsiding, it spent more than $3 million cleaning up 1,836 tons of debris - that's the equivalent of 3,672,000 pounds. Sarasota County's wallet faired much better. County leaders say red tide cost the region just $4,000 and left behind 77.41 tons of debris, or 154,800 pounds. 

As of Friday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says background concentrations of red tide were still being detected offshore of Pinellas County. 

You can check out the FWC's latest fishkill reports here.

Red tide is one of the water's deadliest enemies, and it occurs nearly every summer along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Some years, however, it's worse than others. 

The blooms can last as little as a few weeks or longer than a year and can even subside and then reoccur, according to FWC.

Local researchers and scientists who are working to find solutions to red tide have said climate change and human activity remain a concern and contributing factor.

They say while red tide occurs naturally, people and communities need to do their part to decrease its intensity. 

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