The strong red tide this year isn’t only threatening fish, it’s taking a toll on the sea turtle population.
Program manager for Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium’s Standing Investigation, Gretchen Lovewell, said they have recovered 28 sea turtles. Only three of them were alive, and of those three sea turtles that were alive, two of them showed strong symptoms of red tide.
“This year in Sarasota County, we have already collected 112 sea turtles and only 38 of them were alive. That is way above our yearly average of 100 sea turtles which is very concerning,” Lovewell said.
The recent boost in deaths is enough to raise red flags, but Lovewell said it was not enough to threaten the sea turtle species yet.
“We are hoping that baby hatchlings that survive off of eating an internal sack will make it past the toxic red tide because sea turtles get it by eating contaminated food,” Lovewell said, “But for the older sea turtles, those are the ones we are concerned about.”
Lovewell said many of the animals they are treating haven’t officially tested positive for red tide, but they showed strong symptoms of having it. Those symptoms are being lethargic, unresponsive and bloated.
Sea turtles weren't the only sea creatures feeling the impact of the red tide.
“For both manatees and sea turtles, red tide is a neuro-toxin. We think manatees are getting it from sea grass, but they also breath it in,” Lovewell said.
Lovewell said there’s not much humans can do to save turtles from red tide. She said so far in 2018, 40 percent of sea turtles they have taken care of have been hurt by boat strikes which is something humans can prevent.
►Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the 10 News app now.