Islanders, visitors answer red tide cleanup call

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Rob Bodam, left, of Boulder, Colorado, and Matt Nolan of Chicago clear dead fish from the beach Aug. 6 near 75th Street in Holmes Beach. Nolan, who first came to the island in 1979 to visit grandparents, has returned every year since and now brings his children. Nolan’s wife, Erika, wrote in an email to The Islander, “I thought you should know how committed we are to keeping our beach on AMI a happy, safe and clean place.” The brothers-in-law removed nearly 400 pounds of fish in their effort. Islander Photo: Courtesy Erika Nolan
Volunteers Roque Pastorius, owner of Island Monkey Bus, Max and Henry Oalwaithe from the United Kingdom and Christy Shinavier, a Monkey Bus driver, collected dead fish Aug. 7 in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Courtesy HBPD

Social media helps spread the word.

The action started with an Aug. 6 Facebook post on the Holmes Beach Police Department’s page: “Anyone who would like to volunteer to clean beaches along Holmes Beach can contact Holmes Beach code enforcement … .There will be masks, gloves and a trash grabber given out to anyone who would like to help.”

The next morning more than 50 volunteers showed up at the 52nd Street beach access to pick up dead fish.

“We headed out at 8 a.m. and people were already there, waiting for us,” said James Thomas, Holmes Beach code enforcement officer.

As volunteers filled trash bags, people on the beach joined in. Thomas said the group comprised locals and vacationers alike, including one family from Germany and another from the United Kingdom.

They collected dead fish for three hours from the beach and canals and by 11 a.m. had about 1,000 pounds.

Waste Pro, which has a contract with the city, dropped dumpsters at the 30th Street, 33rd Street, 36th Street, 46th Street, 67th Street and 71st Street beach accesses, emptying them before the midday sun hit the bins and created a stink.

“They were really on it,” Thomas said.

Thomas said Waste Pro also supplied bottled water and trash bags to volunteers. Keep Manatee Beautiful supplied garbage grabbers and the city’s public works employees did the heavy lifting.

Thomas said the city received calls Aug. 4-5 about fish on the beach and, Aug. 6, Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson told Thomas to set up a cleanup.

Roque Pastorius, owner of the Island Monkey Bus, said it was his duty as a business owner on the island to pitch in. Pastorius brought a vehicle with a dump box onto the beach, driving volunteers to pick up fish farther down the beach.

“The island is a very important part of my life and tourism is an even bigger part of my life,” Pastorius said. “I saw on the news people turning their nose up on our island, and we don’t want that. We want them to come vacation and stay.”

Thomas said more cleanups may be scheduled if red tide remained.

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