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Researchers suddenly see alarming spike in dolphin deaths across southwest Florida

Sarasota County

Over the past few days, an alarming number of dead dolphins have washed ashore along southwest Florida beaches, including in the Tampa Bay area.

It’s a reminder that red tide is still a looming threat in the gulf.

This latest trend has many wondering whether we’ll see another tragic increase of dead dolphins here in the Tampa Bay area.

This year was a record setting nightmare for dolphin deaths.

NOAA says the incessant red tide bloom has been a factor in 109 recorded dolphin deaths throughout southwest Florida.

Over the past six weeks, Mote Marine Lab has had a reprieve.

“Over the last week or so, its changed dramatically,” said Gretchen Lovewell with Mote Marine Lab.

Researchers say over the past few days more than 20 dead dolphins have washed ashore along Lee and Collier counties. And the number continues to climb.

“It’s a very unfortunate, very unusual thing. In my 15 years, this is only the second time I’ve ever had to deal with a dead dolphin on the beach,” said Harbor Master Captain Robert Jacobsen.

This weekend, Mote Marine Lab says four dead dolphins were recovered in the Tampa Bay area.

Two dead juvenile dolphins were found at the Kingfish Boat Ramp in Holmes Beach. A large dolphin was recovered in the gulf off Sarasota and the fourth was found in Manasota Key.

Necropsies have been completed and samples have been sent to a lab to determine whether red tide is the culprit.

“I’m hoping that we’re dealing with just more of the same even though the numbers are elevated. I would hate to know that we’re dealing with something else but we just won’t know for a little while until we can get all those tests back,” said Lovewell.

In the meantime, scientists from all over Florida are in the Fort Myers area as the death toll continues to climb.

If you spot a dead or injured dolphin, immediately call a wildlife rescue expert. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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