Red Tide

An outbreak of red tide is killing fish along the southwest Florida coast.

An outbreak of red tide is killing fish off the southwest Florida coast.

John Davis / WGCU-FM

May kicks off the official beginning of sea turtle nesting season in Southwest Florida.  Threatened loggerheads are the most prolific nesters on area beaches, but endangered green and even leatherback sea turtles also nest along Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast and on barrier islands.  

Experts and volunteers with a number of monitoring and protection programs will begin trolling beaches in the predawn hours looking for signs of nesting activity, marking new nests, educating beachgoers and documenting their findings.  We’ll speak with Conservancy of Southwest Florida senior biologist Dave Addison, who heads one of the longest running sea turtle monitoring and protection programs in the country.

We explore what residents and visitors can do to minimize potential impacts and to help ensure a healthy nesting season.  

Plus, a toxic red tide algae bloom that’s been lingering in the Gulf of Mexico just off of Southwest Florida’s shoreline has been impacting sea turtles and other marine life in recent weeks.  We check in with veterinarian, Dr. Heather Barron, who directs the wildlife hospital at CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) on Sanibel Island.

Florida beachgoers often imagine a day on the water. Colorful umbrellas peppered across the sand, the sound of waves foaming as they crash onto the shore and the inescapable smell of saltwater nipping at your senses.

Sometimes, instead of this picturesque scene, a sickening odor of dead fish wafts across empty beaches, local restaurants are closed because they can’t prepare seafood, and residents even experience trouble breathing. The culprit is red tide.

Florida wildlife officials say a red tide bloom persists along the southwest Florida coast and some fish kills have been reported.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the organism responsible for red tides is a natural part of the ecosystem but it can bloom to high concentrations when conditions favor it. Over the past week, samples were collected offshore in Collier, Lee, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Charlotte and Monroe counties.