Who is responsible for cleaning dead fish off of the beach in the Lee County half of Gasparilla Island? It all depends on who owns the property. On this island, that means private owners.
Lee County owns the beach accesses between 1st and 19th streets, but their ownership stops at the sand. This is where state ownership begins. The state Department of Environmental Protection also owns the beaches in their parks; however, the mandate of the state park does not extend to removing dead fish from the beaches.
Everything else is the responsibility of the private property owners.
Lee County Parks Department receives money each year from the Lee County Tourism Development Council to pay for fish and debris removal, but it is earmarked specifically for county lands. They have indicated that if there were a massive fish kill that was a health risk to the residents of Gasparilla Island, they would work with the Department of Environmental Protection and the GICIA to remove the fish.
Nicole Garcia, a representative from Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, said they would have to research the matter. She was unaware of a time when they had ever sent people out to clean up dead fish from beaches.
Meanwhile, some residents have paid people to rid their own beaches of fish. According to one beachfront house caretaker, the going rate is about $40 an hour to do the task.
The fish have remained on the beaches for several weeks, when the latest episode of red tide came through.
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