But it’s at the beachfront residents’ expense.
Misty Nichols, executive director of the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association, was in contact with two different departments from within the county. She was told that the fish can be removed manually at any time, but they may not be buried on the beach.
Lee County representatives told Nichols they will even provide dumpsters for fish disposal.
If beachfront residents want to group together and hire a bulldozer to clean up the fish, however, a permit must be filed. The permit can be issued to one homeowner, or to a contractor that is hired to carry out the removal. Nichols said she would be interested in helping residents fill out the paperwork if her services are needed.
“In most instances when we have dead fish on the beach from red tide they come and go with the tides,” Nichols said. “Unfortunately, during that extreme event in October we experienced at least three days of much higher than normal high tides. This pushed the fish up higher on the beach and out of the reach of the normal water level rise.”
Nichols said she learned that the state park does not remove dead fish, and although Lee County will provide dumpsters for fish removal during extreme events, they will not physically remove the fish from the beach.
This is a county-wide policy, Nichols said, not just unique to Gasparilla Island.
“This leaves the fish cleanup to the property owners who choose to take on the responsibility,” she said.
Nichols contacted Carol Lis at Lee County and Jennifer Cowart of the Department of Environmental Protection to find out what their departments allow in the way of fish removal, which procedures could be done without a permit, and which procedures would require a permit.
“There is no fee for this permit, but there are restrictions on what the permit allows,” Nichols explained. “Mechanical removal is not permitted in the surf zone (wet portion of the beach), in dune vegetation, or if there are sea turtle nests on the beach.”
And, as of the end of October when the conversations between Nichols and the county took place, there were still two sea turtles nesting on Boca beaches.
“From the information I have received it seems it would be possible for an island-wide effort to be coordinated,” Nichols said. “Unfortunately though, it would be at residents’ expense.”
Residents interested in applying for a permit should contact Jennifer Cowart with the Florida DEP Division of Water Resource Management at (239) 344-5627.
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