SARASOTA COUNTY - Officials say winds and waves overnight Thursday pushed more dead fish onto nearly every beach in Sarasota County. Friday crews are spread across the entire coastline doing what they can to pick up the debris in what has already been a long week.
"It's a pretty big event today." Standing on Nokomis Beach Friday, Sarasota County Parks & Recreation Manager George Tatge is setting up every resource he has -- a small army to pick up a massive amount of dead sea creatures. "The cold front that came through has left a sizable amount of large fish on our beaches."
By early morning they've already scouted the 30 plus miles of coastline in the county. "At Manasota Key it is handwork by county staff. At the north beaches it is mechanized work. Right here we have both county staff and the work offenders."
Now even considering hiring outside contracted help. So many, the fish are a nuisance to health, safety, and to the almighty dollar. Many typical tourism hot spots on a clear blue day as empty as could be. "It is certainly not something we want in our tourist locations. We do those first."
Some visitors like Joe Tryzna from Chicago say the shifting winds making breathing on the beach Friday bearable. "Yesterday was terrible. You could not breath on the beach. You coughed and sneezed and your eyes ran. Today is perfect that way anyway."
Nearly unnoticeable if not for the fish and their smell. "Gosh, you have to get rid of them."
From machine to hand a tedious process with no definite end in sight says Tatge. "Hopefully our beaches will be clean of fish by the end of the day. That is what we are shooting for. We will work through the weekend and rotate those crews depending on where they are best needed."
Wet sand is considered public access. County officials are now using low tide to get to some private beaches now inundated with dead fish.