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Beach businesses hurting from lingering red tide, massive fish kill

Posted: 7:34 PM, Aug 01, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-02 10:59:14Z

As red tide lingers in the Gulf of Mexico off of Southwest Florida's coast, businesses on Fort Myers Beach are starting to feel the impacts.

Junkanoo, a restaurant and bar on the beach, had to close around 2:30 on Tuesday afternoon due to the overpowering stench of from piles of dead fish that had washed up on the shore.

"The customers were uncomfortable, and my employees were coughing," said Neal Vanvliet, Junkanoo's general manager. "It was just a bad smell."

Thankfully, workers arrived Wednesday morning with rakes and heavy machinery to help remove the fish.

"There were two tractors out there and a bunch of people, and they got all the dead fish up," Vanvliet said. "Not as much smell today."

But the red tide has been making it hard to breathe on the beach. Scott Safford, owner of the Sea Gypsy Inn, said that numerous guests have canceled their reservations.

"We just had a guest today that was on one of our beachfront properties (who canceled)," Safford said. "They just couldn't deal with it anymore."

While red tide is a naturally occurring event, Safford believes the freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee - which eventually finds its way into the Gulf near Fort Myers Beach - is making the red tide worse.

"We are so angry that that water is still flowing," Safford said. "I mean, somebody has got to stop this."

He believes that electing politicians who are committed to fixing the water problems will prevent future red tide blooms from getting as bad as it has been in 2018.

"If you don't vote, if you don't get involved...it's going to happen all over again," he said.