SARASOTA, FL. (WFLA) – Red tide in the gulf has now forced the cancellation of a Sarasota fishing tournament. The Snook Shindig Fishing Tournament was supposed to start this weekend. Instead, the participants are out of luck, and scientists are hoping the red tide doesn’t get worse.
Mote Marine Lab holds the catch and release tournament as a way to help monitor the numbers and health of the snook population. However, in the past few weeks, red tide blooms have been detected in the waters off Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Red Tide is a harmful algae that kills fish and can cause respiratory problems in humans. Unfortunately in recent weeks, Mote Marine Lab has found large numbers of dead snook. Dr. Ken Leber with Mote Marine Lab said, “[We’re] seeing snook dead on the bottom. So the last thing we want to do is put more stress on that fishery at a time when it’s struggling.”
Dr. Leber added, “We haven’t had a red tide event like this for years.”
Officials are hopeful that the red tide will be blown offshore; otherwise it can cause more problems. “If it continues and it increases, we’re going to see greater numbers of fish dying,” said Dr. Leber.
Charter boat captain Wayne Genthner has been following the fish in the gulf for 16 years. Genthner said, “I have to be able to stay on top of the movements of the fish.”
His livelihood depends on finding that next big catch but red tide can make his job difficult. Genthner said, “You can breathe it, once in a while you feel it. And you’ll see some dead fish floating that died someplace else.”
Genthner is asthmatic, and the red tide gives him coughing fits. He also worries for the health of his clients when red tide is present.
Genthner said, “It bothers me because I don’t want to expose my clients or myself to dangerous toxins.” Ultimately, mote officials feel that protecting the fish population during this red tide threat is more important than holding a fishing tournament.
Mote officials are hopeful that the tournament can be held in the spring. They’re going to keep monitoring the snook population to make sure it will be safe to hold it then.