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Red tide appears along Florida Panhandle

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It was a rough weekend for Florida's beaches, with a resurgence of red tide on the Gulf Coast and a new outbreak reported along the Panhandle.

Red tide returned to beaches on Saturday along Pinellas County on the Gulf Coast, bringing with it countless dead fish.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that county employees and contractors worked through the day and night to remove dead sea-life from beaches.

Due to an outbreak of red tide along Bay County, beachgoers in Panama City Beach were greeted by a grizzly sight this weekend:  thousands of dead fish spanning the coastline.  

While red tides that far north are less common than in the south, Dr. Jeff Chanton, an oceanography professor at Florida State University, said it’s nothing new. 

“The red tide organism was first observed here in the 1500s by the Spanish explorers," Chanton said. 

The blooms are caused by high nutrient levels in the water. 

While they can occur naturally, scientists believe the length and severity of the outbreaks have increased due to human use of fertilizers.

Southwest Florida has been experiencing red tide since last October.

“The fish of the Gulf of Mexico suffer terribly because of this. Seabirds suffer because of this," Chanton said. "It's a very disturbing thing.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it's investigating whether the red tide in Southwest Florida spread north, or if the outbreak in the Panhandle is a separate, unrelated incident.

Jonathan Webber, with Florida Conservation Voters, said whether or not the outbreaks are connected, the worsening situation calls for action from the state.

“In Florida, our economy is our environment," Webber said. "It's directly related, and things go bad on the coast or wherever it may be, I mean, that gets around and it affects how much money our state is able to make.”

Researchers at the University of South Florida predict the red tide outbreak to move east along the Panhandle.

The FWC will be releasing an updated red tide report on Wednesday.

Go to myfwc.com for the latest updates on red tide and blue-green algae conditions throughout the state. Call FWC at 1-800-636-0511 to report fish kills. 

State looks to bolster redfish amid red tide fight

Florida hopes to replenish the redfish population that has dropped because of red tide.

Gov. Rick Scott said Monday the FWC is directing $1.2 million for research and production of redfish at a facility at Port Manatee.

According to the governor’s office, the money will help the commission address the effects of red tide on redfish in coastal areas. Red tide recently has led to widespread fish kills in Southwest Florida.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission facility at Port Manatee spawns and raises hatchery fish.