The sight. The smell. It’s all unappealing.
Red tide hit Southwest Florida hard, and many are feeling the affects. Hundreds of fish and other wildlife have washed up on shore. Local businesses are struggling as the sight drives tourists and locals away.
The Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce has decided to initiate tracking the situation in real-time through their local businesses.
The chamber sent a document out via e-mail for business owners to fill out and record until August 27. The questions cover cancellations and early departures due to water quality, number of employees, frequently asked questions, and general year over year business decrease.
Click here for a Vacation Rental business spreadsheet example sent out by the FMB Chamber of Commerce. The businesses are asked to send updates each week starting August 6.
Find the most up-to-date beach conditions for Fort Myers Beach here .
Down In Naples, Businesses are Struggling Too
Businesses in Naples are also feeling the pain.
Captain Berry with Manatee Adventures has felt it firsthand.
“A lot of people have canceled, our international reservations, there’s a company that called in the UK and cancelled all of their people coming to Southwest Florida,” he said. “We have lost some business, a lot of other people have been hit a lot worse than me.”
Michael Randall rents boats down in Naples, and recently he’s been getting more calls about red tide than rentals.
“We’re getting calls everyday with cancellations and it’s really hurting us,” Michael Randall with Naples Boating Company said. “On average between June, July, and August, we should be doing and have in the past, doing about 4.2 rental per day, we’re down to not even half point 5 these last two weeks.”
How about business interruption insurance? This helps businesses if there’s a break in their usual revenue stream.
Both Randall and Berry said they didn’t have it.
However, over in Fort Myers Beach the Chamber of Commerce has offered to it’s businesses access to small business grants and loans. This is not something being offered by Collier County.
Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples is hurting too. It had to cancel their big sand castle competition for the first time in six years. This event pulls in $15,000.
“It impacts the fundraising for the museum,” Event Manager Laura Richardson said. “It’s just not something we want kids and families at risk with respiratory issues.”
The museum plans to reschedule the event.
Wildlife and Fish Are at the Forefront of the Issue
Out on the water, the story is similar. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported 80 manatee deaths statewide from red tide so far this year. Five years ago, 277 manatee deaths were recorded from red tide.
A total of 404 sea turtles have been reported injured, sick, or dead from red tide from November 1, 2017 to July 30, 2018 from Collier to Sarasota Counties.
Fish by the hundreds are also washing up dead. Species like grouper, trout, eel, and snook. Over 400 fish kill reports were submitted to Florida Fish and Wildlife this year.
Additional reporting by Anna Kohls and Terrace Myles