More than 16,000 fish will be released into Florida waters to help restore wildlife slammed by red tide

(CNN) — More than 16,000 redfish will be released into southwest Florida waters starting Tuesday in an effort to recover the thousands of animals killed by red tide, the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida said.

“We’re extremely excited to begin releasing these fish now that the waters are determined to be safe,” CCA Florida Executive Director Brian Gorski said in a statement. “Between these releases, encouraging anglers to catch-and-release and promoting conservation, we’re going to see this fishery improve, and we’re honored to be a part of it.”

More than 2,000 tons of marine wildlife washed ashore as a “red tide” algae bloom choked Florida’s Gulf Coast for months last year. Red tide results from toxins released by dead algae blooms. The toxins, which can be steered by wind and water currents, are deadly to wildlife, including fish. Red tide also may cause irritation to people’s skin and lead to respiratory problems, especially for those with asthma.

CCA, in partnership with Duke Energy and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, will release more than 1,000 fish through five counties along the southwest coast, which has been determined safe, the association said in a news release.

Duke Energy donated all the redfish to help preserve Florida’s natural environment, a spokeswoman told CNN.

“We are permitted by FWC to release up to 16,000 juvenile and up to 250 adult redfish,” Peveeta Persaud said. “We plan to release up to our permitted number in total, so 16,250 redfish.”

By late 2018, the state had spent more than $8 million in cleanup costs and tourism-reliant businesses had lost tens of millions of dollars because of the red tide algae bloom.

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