Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Recent Sea Turtle Strandings Caused by Red Tide

Kemp’s Ridley found near Snook Inn taken to CROW – Sanibel. |Photo Courtesy of CROW

On October 18, 2019, Audubon Florida issued a press release stating that their staff and volunteers have documented a red tidal algal bloom in the immediate proximity of Marco Island, Naples and Ft. Myers.

Six dead sea turtles were found in one 24-hour period alone, and Collier County has documented 20 dead sea turtles on the beaches since October 4th.

Maura Kraus, Principal Environmental Specialist for Collier County, states that Marco Island has had 11 strandings since October 4th, consisting of 10 Kemp’s Ridley and one green sea turtle.

Two Kemp’s Ridley and one green sea turtle were taken to the rehab facilities at CROW in Sanibel.

All of the four dead sea turtles discovered on October 16th were Kemp’s Ridley.

Mary Nelson, Marco’s Sea Turtle Lady, is saddened by the news of dead sea turtles. On October 17th, she found one dead loggerhead sea turtle in Marco. All turtle strandings are reported to the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network, noting its condition, species, location, measurements, sex, tags and final disposition. Also noted are any wounds or abnormalities.

First Kemp’s Ridley found on Sand Dollar Island on October 6th. |Photo by Brittany Piersma

The critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley are one of the smallest of the seven sea turtle species. According to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), Southwest Florida’s shallow bays and inland coastal waters provide a perfect habitat for young Kemp’s Ridley turtles hunting for crab, their favorite food.

Good news from CROW: The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle rescued on October 4th by the crew of the Dolphin Explorer near the mouth of Capri Pass in Marco Island, has been released.

Veterinarians at CROW performed a full examination and believed that the sea turtle may have been suffering from minor toxicity from brevetoxin, also known as red tide. After keeping the Kemp’s Ridley for several days, it was returned to the Marco Island area and released back into the water. Prior to its release, CROW staff tagged the sea turtle using flipper tags and a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag.

Kemp’s Ridley rescued by the Dolphin Explorer crew and taken to CROW (October 4th). |Photo Courtesy of CROW

Cristina Leske of Cape Marco, a regular beach walker, reported that she had experienced some respiratory irritation. In addition to a few dead fish, Leske also noticed the dead loggerhead between Madeira and Residents Beach. It has been reported to FWC and picked up by Sea Turtle Monitor, Tyler Beck for disposition.

In addition, several cormorants have been found visibly showing signs of red tide exposure. According to Brittany Piersma of Audubon of the Western Everglades, if you see a cormorant hanging out by the vegetation or hotels, it is a sign that something is off. If you are able to catch the bird, please take it to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida or call 239-262-2273 for assistance with injured birds.

If you encounter a sea turtle stranding, please call the FWC hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text *FWC or #FWC. Take a photo and if possible, include GPS coordinates. Please report findings to the Marco Island Police Department’s non-emergency number by calling 239-389-5050.

Loggerhead sea turtle found between Madeira and Residents Beach. |Photo by Jean Hall

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