Mike Bergin, nicknamed ‘Marina Joe,’ took it upon himself to keep Twin Shores clear of fish kill during red tide.
When Mike and Nicki Bergin moved to Longboat Key in 2017, Nicki took a keen interest in the daily tidal changes.
Mike Bergin made fun of her at first.
Now, though, the ins and outs of the tides are essential to his latest endeavor.
When the persistent red tide bloom hit Longboat Key at the end of July, the Bergins were affected, like most of their neighbors with the smell, respiratory irritation and mats of dead sea life.
The Bergins live at Twin Shores, with their backyard overlooking Sarasota Bay just a few feet away. The regular sight of dolphins jumping, manatees grazing and birds diving was gone — replaced with something worse every time the tide rolled in.
“It was more the sight,” Mike Bergin said. “The marina was just full of dead fish, and it was just unpleasant for us because this is our yard, so I just thought, ‘We’ve got to do something about it.’”
He got a rake and went to work.
“When the tide started to go down, I pushed them (dead fish) all in the middle of the canal, and they went out the gap in the middle, so they went back out with the tide,” Bergin said.
The fish would come back in with the next change in tide, so the Twin Shores association put a yellow boom in the water to help with that. And not only did the association get a boom, they asked Bergin if he wanted to be in charge of the marina at all times.
He declined the broader offer but pledged to continue clearing the marina of dead fish and email an update to the association board every day. He also gave himself a new name that caught on in the Twin Shores community – “Marina Joe.”
He doesn’t know how he came up with it, but it’s stuck, and he signs every email regarding red tide as “Marina Joe.”
It’s also what his neighbors call him now.
Before moving to Longboat Key, the Bergins spent 22 years in Connecticut, where they never had to face red tide, so this was a learning experience.
And since this bout was especially bad, Bergin knew the town would be busy cleaning canals all over the island.
“I don’t know what it was,” he said. “I just thought when the town of Longboat Key has its hands full, I’ll see what I can do.”
That mentality is something the Bergins keep in mind daily. Taking care of the environment is a bit of a hobby.
They cycle to St. Armands nearly every day and have baskets on their bikes that allow them to pick up trash along the way and dispose of it properly.
When people noticed Bergin was cleaning the canal, they began leaving rakes at his door. They also were concerned he would get sick, but he’s fine.
“They know Marina Joe now,” he said of his neighbors.