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NOAA: 39 animals dead since Nov. 21, red tide suspected

December 4, 2018
By JESSE MEADOWS ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Dead sea life continues to wash up in Lee and Collier counties as red tide counts creep back up.

"Preliminary necropsy results showed consistency with red tide exposure," wrote Kim Amendola, communications supervisor for NOAA.

"However, we will not know for sure until we get the biotoxin results back, which should take a few weeks or longer. We've had a total of 39 animals since November 21 in Lee and Collier Counties and 120 total for the Collier-Pinellas County UME since July 2018."

UME is short for Unusual Mortality Event, which the Marine Mammal Protection Act defines as "a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response."

According to NOAA, there have been 67 UMEs since 1991, with 30 percent of those occurring in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nineteen percent were due to biotoxins like k. brevis.

Bottlenose dolphins have been washing up in unusual numbers across Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties since July.

One dead dolphin was discovered in Collier County on Sunday Nov. 25, two on the following Monday morning, and another two on Tuesday, according to media accounts.

On Fort Myers Beach last week, one Ridley sea turtle and two fish were picked up off the sand.

The fish were too decomposed to identify, according to Rae Burns, the town's environmental technician.

One sick cormorant was also rescued and taken to CROW hospital in Sanibel for care.

Lee County removed about 1,500 pounds of dead sea life this week, including dolphin, tarpon, sea turtle, and redfish, with most of it concentrated in Bonita Beach.

Florida Fish and Wildlife's Nov. 30 report on red tide status listed very low to high concentrations in 10 samples taken in Lee County, and very low to medium concentrations in five samples taken in Collier County.

It also listed reports of respiratory irritation in Bonita Beach, Captiva, Gasparilla Island, and Newton Park last week.

Residents are advised to report stranded sea life by calling the Southeast Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 877-WHALE HELP (877-942-5343).

Fish kills can be reported to FWC by calling 800-636-0511 and leaving a detailed report and contact information.



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