Dozens of fish, sea turtle found dead on Marco Island as red tide threat grows
Dozens of dead fish washed ashore Wednesday on Marco Island as government agencies warned of high levels of the organism that causes red tide.
The fish found on South Beach are likely dead due to red tide, according to Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
"These fish kills are likely due to red tide," a spokesperson for FWC wrote in an email to the Eagle. "There are high concentrations in the area."
Dead fish and respiratory irritation are being reported on Keewaydin Island and Marco Island beaches and the back bays around Marco and Isles of Capri, according to the Oct. 9 Collier County Red Tide Status report.
"Respiratory irritation is possible at beaches between Bonita Beach and Cape Romano through Thursday, October 10," the report reads. "People with chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma or emphysema should avoid going to the beach as these illnesses may be aggravated."
A water sample obtained Monday by FWC on Marco Island's Caxambas Park shows a high abundance of Karenia brevis, the organism the causes red tide, according to FWC's red tide map.
Another sample taken Monday from the Snook Inn on Big Marco Pass shows medium levels of the organism and a sample taken on a boat ramp close to Isles of Capri shows low levels.
As for South Beach, where the dead fish were found, as of Oct. 9 FWC's red tide map only showed a test result from Oct. 3, which indicated no sign of red tide.
"We were a little concerned at first but then we got in," said Kerry Jester of Delaware. Jester was on South Beach on Wednesday with her husband Bart Jester and their daughters Brenna and Brooke.
Trudy Furno from Melbourne, Florida was visiting her son on Marco Island and decided to take a walk on South Beach. That is when she saw dozens of dead fish, some being eaten by birds.
"This is terrible," Furno said. "This is sad."
Two couples who wished not to be identified said they were not aware that Marco waters tested positive for red tide. It was the first time their babies were going to enjoy a beach but their parents decided to stay on the sand and far away from the dead fish.
Frank Pasqua from Miami said red tide is everybody's fault.
"The waste that we pour into the sea is what is causing this," Pasqua said.
FWC asks people to report fish kills at MyFWC.com/FishKill, by calling 800-636-0511 or using the FWC Reporter mobile app.
Dead turtle found on Big Marco Pass
A dead sea turtle was found Wednesday morning by Collier County turtle patrol on Big Marco Pass, according to Brittany Piersma, bird biologist for Audubon of the Western Everglades.
Piersma provided the Eagle with pictures that show a Kemp's Ridley sea turtle marked with an orange spray paint.
"They mark the ones they find with paint so they do not recount them," Piersma wrote in an email to the Eagle.
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Facts about red tide
- A red tide, or harmful algal bloom, is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plantlike organism), according to the FWC website.
- At high enough concentrations, red tide can discolor water a red or brown hue. The water can also remain its normal color during a bloom.
- Red tides were documented in the southern Gulf of Mexico as far back as the 1700s and along Florida's Gulf coast in the 1840s. Fish kills near Tampa Bay were even mentioned in the records of Spanish explorers.
- Red tides in Florida develop 10-40 miles offshore, away from man-made nutrient sources.
- There is no direct link between nutrient pollution and the frequency or initiation of red tides caused by Karenia brevis. However, once red tides are transported inshore, they are capable of using man-made nutrients for their growth.
- No single factor causes blooms of Karenia brevis.