Investigation continues about disturbing animal deaths in Florida’s waters


Sitting at my daughter’s swim practice, her coach compared humans to dolphins — we are not built to live in water and dolphins are not built to live on land. That made me think about the latest dolphin mortality and the state of our waters.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, “the dolphin death toll there (on Sarasota County’s beaches) this past month (August) increased to 11 so far.”

The cause is unclear but “the Red Tide algae bloom that has lingered along the Gulf Coast since November and has recently killed thousands of baitfish and sportfish, and is suspected of killing sea turtles, manatees and even a whale shark” is a likely cause.

Investigators from Mote Marine Laboratory have been working on necropsies of the carcasses of dead bottlenose dolphins recovered with the help of the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Mote’s stranding investigations program manager Gretchen Lovewell told Fox 13 that “seeing stomachs full of partially-digested fresh fish and not much else, is one of our first indications this (death toll) is likely (due to) red tide.”

Red tide, a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga, is nothing new to Florida's Gulf Coast. Their occurrence has been documented since the 1840s in that area, according to the FWC.

However, as National Geographic reports, this year’s is the region’s worst in more than a decade. It “stretches around 100 miles along the coast and miles offshore, often pushed into concentrated patches by winds and currents.”

It is so bad that many are wondering if humans have anything to do with it.

“There are no easy answers, scientists say, and many researchers are split on the culprits.” While some think other factors like “salinity, temperatures, light saturation, chemistry and currents” play a key role in the long-lasting red tides. Many believe that the “algae feeds on the nutrient-rich agricultural runoff from land, causing it to stick around for longer and rage more intensely.”

Runoffs seem to be a common denominator regarding water issues and also the reason inland waters turned slimy green in Florida.

“Runoff from cattle farms and residential developments that lie north of the state's largest freshwater body, Lake Okeechobee, carries in nutrients,” feeding the bloom of green cyanobacteria.

Between those blooms and the news about chemicals being “found at high levels in the groundwater at Patrick Air Force Base and at much lower levels in groundwater and wastewater in the Cocoa Beach and Satellite Beach areas,” according to Florida Today, it makes me wonder what we are doing to our waters and what the future looks like for us and our precious wildlife.

To better understand our water system and maybe get a different perspective on the issues involving our waters, Recycle Brevard scheduled a couple of field trips — on Sept. 28 to the Cocoa drinking water plant and on Oct. 26 to the Sykes Creek wastewater treatment plant. For information, go to Recycle Brevard on Facebook or Eventbrite.