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Manatee County to use oysters in fight against red tide

MANATEE COUNTY – As red tide continues to ravage the region, Manatee County commissioners are enlisting some help to fight back. They're using oysters and clams.

The mollusks eat red tide and filter out the water.

Red tide is a toxic algae bloom that kills fish, causes respiratory problems and scares off beach goers.

This bloom has lasted for 10 months and no one knows when it will end.

"It’s just really upsetting when you see all the fish and the marine life just washed ashore,” said County Commissioner Robin DiSabatino.

“It’s horrific. What is going on in our waterways,” said commissioner Betsy Benac.

On Tuesday, the Manatee County Commission announced an expanded partnership with a nonprofit called "START," or Solutions To Avoid Red Tide.

The county is providing more than $2 million of BP oil spill money to place new oyster and clam beds in the waters in and around Manatee County.

"They live for 30 years, that's a long time to be working in the bay, and yes they do eat red tide and they are very unsusceptible to its effects,” said START chairman Sandy Gilbert.

This area used to be filled with oyster beds. Officials say back in the 1800s, the Manatee River was nicknamed "Oyster River." However, the massive oyster beds were eventually removed for food or as cheap fill to create roads.