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Scientists record wildlife impacts due to red tide

By SCCF - | Feb 12, 2021

SCCF Dead sea life recently along stretch from the Sundial to Gulfside City Park.

As the red tide organism Karenia brevis persists in Southwest Florida, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation staff will continue monitoring its potential impact on sea life.

Last week, the SCCF documented two dead sea turtles that had washed ashore: one Kemp’s ridley and one loggerhead. The loggerhead showed evidence of predation. There were no evident signs of injury on the Kemp’s ridley, which is a critically endangered species.

During the same time, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife reported admitting 20 new avian patients. Twelve died and CROW was continuing to nurture the remaining double-crested cormorants, royal terns and one great egret this week.

SCCF staff undertaking the statewide winter Shorebird Survey along the four-and-a-half-mile stretch between the Sanibel Lighthouse and Tarpon Bay encountered a few royal terns that were separated from their flock and appeared not to be flying well. They also observed accumulations of dead sea life, with the heaviest concentrations at the lighthouse and between Sundial and Gulfside City Park.

It is not known whether red tide played a role in the Kemp’s ridley’s death or how it impacted the sick birds. SCCF Marine Laboratory Director Eric Milbrandt said patches of blooms have been difficult to interpret on satellite imagery due to the dense fog and high winds, which resuspends sediments.

“Along the beaches, the counts are low or absent,” he said. “The patches tend to get driven deeper by downwelling when winds are more westerly from the fronts.”