GULF COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Earlier this week the county commission unanimously voted to put a local emergency order into effect due to red tide along the coast.
Beachgoers said they are feeling the physical effects such as coughing and sneezing and a number of marine animals have washed up onshore.
Gulf County County Administrator Mike Hammond said the local state of emergency for the coastal county was a proactive measure to help fight against the effects of the red tide.
“We’ve dealt with it before, it’s been about four or five years since we’ve had a bad fish kill. It is a mess. It is a very bad job for the folks who have to clean that mess up,” Hammond said.
Hammond said red tide impacts everyone.
“Everybody is paying the price. The smell, the eye irritation, everything,” Hammond said. “The tourists, the homeowners, the fishermen everything.”
The state of emergency passed on Tuesday, October 12 along with a second resolution — allowing fishermen to catch fish before they wash up on shore with nets that are a minimum of 350 yards but no greater than 800.
Officials are hopeful this will help avoid two possible outcomes: a massive cleanup effort on Gulf County beaches and a blow to the wholesale bait industry.
“If you understand about baitfish — why are they the first fish to come to shore it’s very simple. They’re surface dwellers they feed on the surface,” Eugene Raffield with Raffield Fisheries said.
Some people said they could feel the effects of ride tide as soon as they step on the beach.
“Just a light cough. My wife noticed it first and then heard people down the beach here a little bit — they were coughing and then I started sneezing. My nose was running a little bit other than that, we did see a dead fish but whether it was a toss back or a catch I don’t know,” a tourist, John Haley said.
On Thursday fishermen were reportedly using 600-yard fishing nets to catch fish before they wash onshore.
The county is trying to avoid a massive cleanup which would ultimately be at the expense of the taxpayer.