Sarasota County

Venice Police Officer has grim job of recovering dolphins killed by red tide

VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) - Red tide is ravaging our coastline and some police officers have been on the front lines in the gulf, seeing some of its most tragic victims.

Recovering dead animals is not exactly part of Venice Police Officer Paul Joyce's job description. But this red tide has been so devastating that researchers need all the help they can get.

The scene was like a funeral processional. People quietly watched as two dead dolphins were dragged behind this Venice police boat. This has become too common of an occurrence in the last two days.

"It is difficult for us to have to deal with this kind of stuff,” said Officer Joyce.

A total of nine dead dolphins have been recovered in south Sarasota county in the past 48 hours. Many of them have been picked up by Joyce.

Researchers are waiting on necropsy results, but they strongly feel red tide is to blame.

“They’re basically suffocating. It’d be like somebody just putting a pillow over your face and holding it there, and taking it off and holding it there. It’d be a very hard, and very long agonizing death,” said Joyce. 

He's been spending his days scanning the water, waiting on calls.

"Unfortunately its been looking for any sea life, dolphins, turtles, and manatees,” said Joyce.

He had just finished recovering a dead juvenile loggerhead sea turtle. He brought it to a team from FWC who were going to take it in for a necropsy.

“It’s been a nonstop with the mortalities of the turtles and dolphins and the manatees, that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing for the last week, is recovering all of them,” said FWC Lt. Rob Gerkin. “This is the worst one I’ve seen in my lifetime here.”

Mote officials say in recent months roughly 145 dead sea turtles have been recovered.

In his nearly 30 year career, Officer Joyce has never seen anything like this.

“I have never come across something like this, ever,” said Joyce.

He says the water conditions appear to be improving, but the job is not over yet.

“We’re all waiting for it to end,” said Joyce.

Officials expect more dead animals in the coming days. If you spot any injured or dead wildlife, call FWC. 

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