VENICE, Florida — Nine dolphins were found dead on beaches in Sarasota County in the past 36 hours.
"The fact that it's starting to impact our dolphins makes us even more nervous about what's to come," said Rebeccah Hazelkorn, senior biologist at Mote Marine.
Venice Police Marine Patrol found two deceased dolphins on Tuesday, another two on Wednesday around 8:00 a.m., two more around 2:30 p.m., and three more on Thursday.
“I have never come across something like this ever,” said Master Police Officer Paul Joyce with the Venice Police Marine Patrol Unit.
Joyce suspects red tide is the cause of the high number of deaths. He said he does not normally respond to these type of calls.
“It is very difficult for us to deal with this kind of stuff. This isn’t something we normally have to deal with on a daily basis,” Joyce said.
"Dolphins are much faster-moving animals. They have been able to detect it and swim out of it. Turtles are actually pretty good at detecting red tide and avoiding it. It's just where the animals are going and how bad the bloom is and how fast it gets into their system," said Hazelkorn.
Those deceased dolphins were discovered in several locations in Sarasota County including one found in the Intracoastal Waterway near Snake Island in Venice and another located on Caspersen Beach.
"Its fin was up. I didn't know whether or not it was a shark or even a small whale. As I got closer, I realized it was a dolphin," said Jeanne May, a homeowner.
Officials say that five of the dolphins are males, four are females.
Mote staff will conduct necropsies on the animals in Sarasota to investigate what happened to them. They were all reportedly found moderately to severely decomposed, which makes it difficult to examine and collect samples for analysis.
The FWC reports red tide is present in Manatee and Sarasota Counties. They collected small samples of red tide off the coast of Pinellas County as well.
“Red tide, unfortunately, is a very slow….very slow death. They’re basically suffocating,” Joyce said.
Venice PD is working with the FWC and Mote Marine. Authorities said they were not as busy two weeks ago as they are now, recovering multiple dead mammals a day.
They encourage boaters to be careful on the water and to look out for dead marine life. If you encounter one, call the Mote Marine Hotline or FWC’s Hotline. They will dispatch crews immediately. Once an animal is recovered, Mote Marine takes them to their lab. They will determine whether red tide killed them.
“I can’t tell you the cause, I know they’re looking into it, but it’s just….it’s one of those years,” FWC Lt. Rob Gerkin said.
Authorities have recovered manatees and turtles too at an alarming rate.
“I believe it will get worse if this red tide does not completely go away, but I feel like it is going to start getting better. I’d like to think that,” Joyce said.