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Crab die-off in Hillsborough Bay could be red tide – or something else

TAMPA — Dozens of dead crabs were floating in Hillsborough Bay along Bayshore Boulevard on Sunday, centered near Bay to Bay Boulevard.

Though the die-off extended a few hundred feet in both directions, the cause is a mystery.

Until the bay’s water is tested, Red Tide can’t be ruled out as a possibility, said Robert Weisberg, a professor and oceanographer at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science.

"For the last several days there have been high concentrations at the mouth of the Tampa Bay on the south side — Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island," he said. Though Red Tide "could have been transported" to Hillsborough Bay, Weisberg said he had not seen any observations to confirm it.

Ryan Rindone, a biologist with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, said he doubts Red Tide has made its way to Tampa Bay waters but advised residents to remain vigilant.

"The bay is a very large and complicated body of water," Rindone said. "Being that Red Tide is knocking on the door, people should be observant about what is going on. But a lot of things could have happened (with the crabs)."

One possibility, Weisberg said, is that "there is a lot of industry in that end of the bay."