SARASOTA COUNTY - Could the recent reports of red tide actually be the result of something similar to a green tide?
A Venice man who restores environmentally sensitive waterways says there is a reason it's only mullet washing up. He says the herbivore like fish are likely eating a harmful algae we could be creating.
Rick Eaton specializes in ecosystem restorations. He's been a huge critic of how water runoff is being dealt with locally. "This is pretty typical of the water you see in Sarasota County. It's green, it's stagnant, it's toxic, it's nasty."
Most of the ditches lead to bigger bays and waterways. Eaton believes improper maintenance is keeping the water from filtering correctly. Instead filled with fertilizers and poisons. "They will spray a poison into the ground called Rodeo. It's very toxic. It has a base called glyphosate which basically kills everything. It is kind of my prime suspect here for the mullet kill."
Highlighted he says recently with the thousands of mullet washing ashore. Eaton says he's also noticed a green florescent algae in some areas. "I have never seen it before. 40 years on the water. I have never seen a mullet kill like this either. It's at least something to look at."
"It's a natural phenomenon. There are just a lot of complexities to it," says Wendy Quigley with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The experts say red tide is the likely culprit. However, more studying continues to be done to see if there is something feeding it. "Still a better understanding of what exactly triggers a bloom. What sustains those blooms. It is still an ongoing science to better understand that."
Eaton says there is something to the fact only one species which happens to feed on vegetation happens to be the one washing up. "I am not buying it all. The damage is to widespread. If there was any kind of red tide we would see some kind of other species. I have been from Boca Grande all the way to Sarasota. I have seen one species. It has been mullet."
Thursday we found dead mullet in the waterway under U.S. 41. An artery to Alligator Creek. Shane Wozniak says it was recently full of the fish. "I used to fish all along the creek and all over here. I used to see a lot of stuff. Now I don't see as much."
"It breaks my heart because there is no reason to leave a degraded quality of life to next generation because we are lazy or stupid. Both in this case," says Eaton. He points to current projects like a nearly three million dollar cement ditch instillation in South Venice which he says is doing more harm then good. "It's gut wrenching. It's nauseating. It's the biggest waste of funds I have ever seen."
Instead he points to a ditch he and neighbors restored by hand more than a year ago. It used to be full of debris and full of algae. Now vibrant and flowing. "We could actually do them correctly. They would be permanently healed. They would actually be restored ecosystems. Not concrete rotting in the ground which we will have to replace later."
He believes if something doesn't change then things will get worse. "Fish kills like this are to be expected. They are going to get worse. This is not the first or last unless we change."
A large fish kill was reported near Boca Grande on Wednesday. As far as our area reports indicate a few continue to wash ashore in south Sarasota County.