VENICE, Fla. — Eleven dolphins have been found dead in Sarasota County, according to Mote Marine Lab.
"The fact that it's starting to impact our dolphins makes us even more nervous about what's to come," said Rebeccah Hazelkorn, senior biologist at Mote Marine.
Venice Police Marine Patrol found two deceased dolphins on Tuesday, another two on Wednesday around 8:00 a.m., two more around 2:30 p.m., three more on Thursday and two more on Sunday morning.
The 11th dead dolphin was identified as the 12-year-old male "Speck" by scientists from Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, a Chicago Zoological Society program that Mote participates in. Scientists had documented "Speck" more than 340 times since his birth in 2006, as part of their decades-long study of the long-term resident bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida.
Scientists from Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, a Chicago Zoological Society program that Mote participates in, identified the 11th deceased dolphin as the 12-year-old male "Speck," whom SDRP scientists have documented more than 340 times since his birth in 2006, as part of their decades-long study of the long-term resident bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida.
“I have never come across something like this ever,” Master Police Officer, Paul Joyce, with the Venice Police Marine Patrol Unit said.
Officer Joyce suspects red tide is the cause of the high number of deaths. He said he does not normally respond to these type of calls.
“It is very difficult for us to deal with this kind of stuff. This isn’t something we normally have to deal with on a daily basis,” Officer Joyce said.
"Dolphins are much faster-moving animals. They have been able to detect it and swim out of it. Turtles are actually pretty good at detecting red tide and avoiding it. It's just where the animals are going and how bad the bloom is and how fast it gets into their system," said Hazelkorn.
Those deceased dolphins were discovered in several locations in Sarasota County including one found in the Intracoastal Waterway near Snake Island in Venice and another located on Caspersen Beach.
We spoke with neighbors who found two of the dolphins stranded on Casey Key in Nokomis.
"Its fin was up. I didn't know whether or not it was a shark or even a small whale. As I got closer, I realized it was a dolphin," said Jeanne May, homeowner.
Officials say that five of the dolphins are males, four are females.
Mote staff will conduct necropsies on the animals in Sarasota to investigate what happened to them. They were all reportedly found moderately to severely decomposed, which makes it difficult to examine and collect samples for analysis.
The FWC reports red tide is present in Manatee and Sarasota Counties. They collected small samples of red tide off the coast of Pinellas County as well.
“Red tide, unfortunately, is a very slow….very slow death. They’re basically suffocating,” Officer Joyce said.
Venice PD is working with the FWC and Mote Marine. Authorities said they were not as busy two weeks ago as they are now, recovering multiple dead mammals a day.
They encourage boaters to be careful on the water and to look out for dead marine life. If you encounter one, call the Mote Marine Hotline or FWC’s Hotline. They will dispatch crews immediately. Once an animal is recovered, Mote Marine takes them to their lab. They will determine whether red tide killed them.
“I can’t tell you the cause, I know they’re looking into it, but it’s just….it’s one of those years,” FWC Lt. Rob Gerkin said.
Authorities have recovered manatees and turtles too at an alarming rate.
“I believe it will get worse if this red tide does not completely go away, but I feel like it is going to start getting better. I’d like to think that,” Officer Joyce said.