By Lily Belcher
As red tides have continued to cause problems for boaters and beach goers, Hillsborough County is working to clean up the dead fish in the waterways. To assist the cleanup efforts, the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce hosted its first volunteer cleanup with the Freedom Boat Club on July 18.
Each boat supplied by the Freedom Boat Club, Apollo Beach Charters and Ladyfish Charters had two volunteers and a captain that cleaned up the dead fish clusters reported by local residents in the bay and along mangroves. They plan to continue these efforts as long as red tides impact local waterfront businesses that have lost customers.
“The county has said they believe this will be an ongoing problem for months, so we’ll continue to do it as long as the need is there,” said SouthShore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Davis.
Davis explained that some businesses are not only losing customers, but also losing employees who have respiratory issues or cannot work due to the smell and conditions on the water. Fishermen who are tasked with catching live bait for shops are also struggling to work, so the chamber of commerce is hoping that they will spend their time helping resolve the issue so all businesses can resume normal operations.
“As a chamber, we can’t tackle red tide,” explained Davis. “We can definitely get out there right away and try to help some businesses.”
Since the conditions are not suitable for volunteers with respiratory issues, members of the community can help in different ways. Right now, the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce is in need of black contractor trash bags, large Rubbermaid garbage cans and long-pole pool skimmer nets. Residents can also make monetary donations to fund supply purchases and lunches for the volunteers.
Hillsborough County has offered guidance for locals who want to dispose of dead fish on their property. It advises residents to double-bag carcasses while wearing gloves and an N-95 mask. The bags can be disposed of in the gray garbage carts that are collected twice a week or can be brought directly to four collection locations: South County Community Collection Center, E.G. Simmons Conservation Park, Apollo Beach Nature Preserve or 504 Elsberry Rd. in Apollo Beach.
Community members over 18 who would like to volunteer can contact Davis at email@example.com for more information about the dates and times of future cleanups. To make monetary donations, mail a check to the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce at 201 W. Shell Point Rd., Ruskin, FL 33570 or call 645-1366 to make a credit card payment. For more information about red tides, visit hcflgov.net/redtide.