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Volume of dead sea life collected drops on island

By Staff | Aug 13, 2018

Judie Zimomra

Over the weekend, the city of Sanibel continued to report on improving conditions on its beaches following last week’s drastic shift in the volume of dead sea life being clean up by crews.

On Aug. 12, officials noted that the morning report found better conditions than in prior days. There were 10 dead fish observed every 10 feet at the Lighthouse Beach fishing pier, and one every 100 feet at Bowman’s Beach. In addition, no other beach had measurable dead sea life deposits nor any odor.

“We again express our sincere appreciation to all for your support during this most challenging time for our community,” City Manager Judie Zimomra’s daily report stated.

The day before, all of the beaches were clear except for Lighthouse, where about one dead fish was found every 10 feet to 15 feet. In addition, there were three to four dead fish observed every 20 feet at Blind Pass and Turner Beach Park. Crews remained deployed cleaning beach debris and the canals.

The city first reported a sharp change in the island’s conditions on Aug. 10.

At the time, officials reported that all the beaches from Lighthouse to Turner were in “very good” to “excellent” condition. By noon, a total of 30 bags of dead sea life – mostly fish – had been removed. In comparison, crews collected an average of 250 to 300 bags of dead sea life per day before Aug. 8.

Also heading into the weekend, the west end canals and bayous looked better, as well as with the east end canals. Only a “moderate” amount of respiratory irritation was reported on the northwest end.

“Any immediate improvements on our beaches does not lessen the city of Sanibel’s resolve, nor the need for our citizens and all who love our environment to lessen our pursuit of the city of Sanibel’s water priorities,” Zimomra’s daily report on Aug. 10 stated. “The next phase of this crisis is our ongoing efforts of pursuing full cost recovery for the city’s expenses to date, as well the full economic recovery of the island.”

The state recently made an extra $400,000 available to Lee County for local waterway cleanup.

In addition, the Lee County Tourism Development Council endorsed an “open-ended” amount to be allocated from the bed tax reserves to assist with the cleanup costs. The TDC also endorsed allocation of an additional $1 million in bed tax reserves for a marketing campaign once area beaches are clear.

According to officials, approximately 535,095 pounds – 267 tons – of dead sea life had been collected and removed from Sanibel’s beaches by the end of day on Aug. 8. The total includes the carcass of a whale shark that came ashore in July, as well as 72 goliath grouper – totaling 7,245 pounds – and 14 tarpons, which totaled 1,825 pounds; the total does not include canal cleanup.

Two shifts of clean-up crews have been working the beaches daily in an effort to catch dead sea life after the second tide of the day. Officials noted that the greatest deposits occurred during low tide.