Red tide episode kills record number of sea turtles
Wildlife officials say manatee deaths are not far behind.
SARASOTA — A Florida red tide outbreak close to 16 months old has killed more sea turtles than any previous single red tide event on record, and manatee deaths are not far behind.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission attributed 589 sea turtles and 213 manatee deaths to this episode of red tide, which began in late 2017. It had killed 127 bottlenose dolphins as of Dec. 20, leading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare an unusual mortality event.
Because of the partial U.S. government shutdown, NOAA has not provided updates for dolphins on its UME website. Dolphin strandings spiked in August and November, but have begun to slow down as red tide shows signs of weakening along the Southwest Florida coast.
Few experienced the gruesome first-hand effects of red tide more than turtle patrol participants, who wore masks and scarves to check turtle crawls following hatching during nesting season, May through October.