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Red tide is a harmful algal blooms that can sicken or even kill local wildlife. It also causes respiratory issues in humans and other animals. Wochit

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The largest number of sea turtle strandings in a single month were reported in Collier County in October.

Maura Kraus, the sea turtle expert for Collier County, said that she has reported 88 sea turtle strandings this year. Of those, 60 were reported in October alone.

“Last year, the highest (stranding count) was 27 during the month of July,” Kraus said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had 60 in a month before.”

Of the 60 reported dead turtles in October, 50 were Kemp's ridley. That species doesn’t nest here but the juveniles migrate here for food, Kraus said.

“Red tide concentrates in food sources and it affects (turtles) neurologically and they start having problems,” she said.

Read: Red tide counts remain steady in Southwest Florida; sporadic reports of fish kills

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released its updated results of red tide counts Wednesday, and concentrations of Karenia brevis (the organism making up red tide) have remained similar to those reported last week.

In Lee County background to high concentrations were reported near the shore and offshore. The agency reported very low to high concentrations in Collier County.

Background levels mean no red tide cells were found, very low levels mean 1,000 to 10,000 cells per liter were found and high levels mean more than 1 million cells per liter were found.

More: Cold front has little effect on red tide in Southwest Florida

The concentrations in Collier were enough to produce a fish kill on Naples Beach Wednesday, said Colleen Gill, the Collier County Waterkeeper.

Gill said she saw large mullet washed onshore, about 5 feet apart in the morning. As the day progressed, she said it just got worse.

The county’s new water keeper also said she found visible patchy blooms of red tide about 500 yards off Keewaydin Island, where she also found a dead sea turtle. She didn't notice any dead fish in the back bays, only the mullets on the beach.

More: Volunteers monitor sea turtle nests on Bonita Beach in Bonita Springs

The harmful algal bloom needs three things, she said: sunlight, warm water and nutrients.

“No one is really going after sources of nutrient pollution in the state,” she said. “We’re using too much fertilizers and the water is all connected. It doesn’t matter if it’s in one county or another, water doesn’t know borders.”

Read: Sea turtle hatchlings emerge from nest on Vanderbilt Beach, make first journey to the Gulf

Roger Jacobsen, the harbormaster for Naples, said red tide conditions have remained steady recently. Recently, shifts in the wind have helped relieve respiratory irritation, he said.

“Over the weekend, with northwest wind, the breakers on the beach turn up red tide and throws it into the air,” he said. The winds have shifted out of the east and the particles of red tide in the air shift out toward the Gulf instead of on land.

Jacobsen said he doesn’t believe the bloom will be as bad as last year and hopes it stays that way.

Read: Businesses 'optimistic' about this year's red tide, but concern still lingers

John Cassani, the Calusa Waterkeeper, said he thinks there should be a kind of benchmark in red tide reporting so previous algal blooms that were as severe as last year won’t overshadow other harmful blooms.

More: Red tide lingers in Southwest Florida with high concentrations reported in Lee, Collier

“You have to assess a period of record going back to the year 2000,” he said. “Of the six longest-lasting red tide blooms in history, three have occurred since 2000. It appears to be a trend that blooms are more frequent and severe.”

Cassani said he thinks FWC and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration do a good job reporting where red tide blooms are located.

“But if you’re not aware of those (reports) and you head to the beach on this side of the state, you probably won’t even see a sign that warns you of the risk,” he said.

One way to help report dead sea life is to call FWC’s wildlife alert at 888-404-FWCC or by dialing *FWC or #FWC.

Karl Schneider is an environment reporter at Naples Daily News. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @karlstartswithk, email him at kschneider@gannett.com

More: Fish kills still being reported, coastal birds showing up at animal hospitals as red tide lingers along Southwest Florida coasts

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