Florida releases 16K redfish in places affected by red tide

Alexa Lardieri

MORE THAN 16,000 redfish will be released in southwest Florida counties this month as the state tries to recover from the devastating red tide that killed thousands of animals.

The Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, along with Duke Energy and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, will begin releasing juvenile and adult redfish on Tuesday in Pasco County. The fish will also be released in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, Collier and Manatee counties, CCA Florida said in a statement.

Approximately 2,000 fish, all hatchery-raised at the Duke Energy Mariculture Center, will be released in each county as the state attempts to reintroduce species of wildlife that were slammed by the red tide last year.

"We're extremely excited to begin releasing these fish now that the waters are determined to be safe," Brian Gorski, CCA Florida executive director, said. "Between these releases, encouraging anglers to catch-and-release and promoting conservation, we're going to see this fishery improve, and we're honored to be a part of it."

In August 2018, then Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for several Florida counties impacted by a prolonged red tide. A red tide is naturally-occurring microscopic algae that produce toxic chemicals, which affect the nervous systems of marine life, causing them to die. Red tide is also harmful to humans, as it releases toxins into the air, causing respiratory irritation and potentially severe illness.

The tide appears almost every year on Florida's Gulf Coast, but was especially severe last year, and, according to CNN, more than 2,000 tons of marine life washed ashore Florida's beaches.

"Duke Energy is committed to helping protect and preserve Florida's natural environment," Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida president, said. "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."