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Red Tide bloom kills fish and leaves some Pinellas beachgoers coughing

A Red Tide algae bloom that has plagued Charlotte and Sarasota counties for months recently moved north into Manatee and Pinellas counties.

Now fish kills have begun littering the waters and beaches around Pass-a-Grille, Boca Ciega Bay, the Sunshine Skyway and Terra Ceia Bay, said Kelly Richmond, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.

On Monday, residents of those areas began reporting respiratory problems such as coughing and scratchy throats, she said.

No one knows how long this Red Tide bloom might last, but experts say that once it gets into the bays and estuaries "it does hang on for a while," she said.

Gulfport residents have noticed the dead fish recently and wondered what was happening, said resident Judy Portnoy.

"People were curious because there were quite a few," she said. "We wondered if it was a Red Tide."

Richmond said the reports of fish kills began filtering in to the marine science lab from Pinellas beaches on Nov. 12. So far the bloom has killed mullet, grunt, sheepshead, catfish and spadefish.

The last Pinellas Red Tide bloom to cause fish kills was last year, when a bloom offshore deposited dead fish on Honeymoon Island, Madeira Beach and Clearwater Beach, she said.