Southern Florida’s red tide, a naturally occurring condition caused by the bloom of toxic algae, is impacting RV parks and campgrounds as thousands of dead fish continue to wash up on local beaches.
Red tide can cause illnesses, such as respiratory problems and skin conditions, and the smell of dead fish is forcing many in the area to wear breathing masks, according to local park owners.
At the San Carlos RV Park and Islands in Fort Meyers Beach, Fla., Park Manager Alisa Rogers told Woodall’s Campground Management, sister publication to RVBusiness, that the park has had close to two dozen cancellations and she expects more to come as red tide continues to kill sea life in the area.
“I am 40 and have lived here my entire life and have never seen anything like this,” she said. “The owners of this park have been here since 1978 and have never seen anything like this either. No one has. “
Located on Hurricane Bay, Rogers said that the 142-site park is usually booked solid this time of year, but air quality issues due to the large amount of dead sea life that has washed up at their marina is turning campers away.
“The smell is horrible, and people are wearing masks when they go outside,” she explained. “The whole situation is heartbreaking.”
The current red tide started in October 2017, making it the longest outbreak since 2006. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for seven counties on Tuesday (Aug. 15) — Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas — that are most affected by the red tide.
According to AL.com, Florida is pledging $100,000 to fund recovery work by Mote Marine Laboratory and $500,000 to establish an emergency grant program to assist tourist communities.
Another $900,000 will go to Lee County to clean up the hard-hit area. The state is pledging additional marine biologists and scientists to assist with cleanup and animal rescue efforts.
Rogers noted that Florida has experienced red tides in the past, but that usually they do not kill off fish like the current outbreak.
“This one is not being caused by one thing,” she noted. “There are a number of environmental issues that have made this one worse, including pollution of waterways in the area.”
North of Fort Meyers Beach on Pine Island, Kristia Carver, general manager of the Tropic Isle Travel Resort, said her park has been impacted by dead fish, but that in general the red tide has not affected her resort as much as at other parks.
“We haven’t had any cancellations yet, but if things don’t get any better we might be seeing some come in,” she explained.
Carver noted that the 146-site park is known for its fishing area, but fishing has currently been suspended due to all the dead fish.
“I have never seen anything like this,” she said. “I am keeping my finger’s crossed and hoping this clears up here soon.”
Rita Johnson, manager of 155-site Tropical Garden RV Park in Bradenton, said the campground hasn’t felt the effects of the red tide. “I was at Bradenton Beach yesterday and I didn’t see anything. People were swimming and I didn’t see any dead fish. It’s always slow this time of year, but our attendance hasn’t been affected.”
At Fort Meyers Beach, a few miles inland sits Gulf Waters RV Resort, a 319-site park that caters to long-term campers and even offers ownership on some sites. General Manger Kelly Latham said that she has received some cancellations, but that the park has only been slightly impacted since they do not have any beach front.
“Obviously, if people are coming down to spend time at the beach than they are probably going to cancel,” she said.
Latham said she is concerned about the impact this will have on the tourism industry in the area for years to come.
“This is as bad as an oil spill,” she noted. “This will impact marine life for years because the parents and young fish are dying off. This will have a major impact on the economy in this area for some time.”