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Sarasota County Sees Uptick In Sea Turtle Deaths

Mote Marine Laboratory
Mote's Stranding Investigations team rescued Intrepid, a sea turtle sickened by red tide.

Sea turtle deaths continue to increase as red tide lingers off Florida's southwestern coast. While the numbers remain steady in Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties, Sarasota is experiencing a spike in cases. 

So far this year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has counted two hundred and eighty-seven deaths in Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties. That's double the number for an average year.

The uptick in Sarasota's cases began just last month and comes during Florida's sea turtle nesting season.

FWC official Allan Foley said young sea turtles won't be affected because of their migration habits. After hatching, they migrate far away from the coast.   

“They quickly swim offshore and then begin a life well offshore, well away from these areas where red tide's concentrated. And they don't start feeding until they get way out into the ocean.”

Foley adds the deaths along the coasts of Charlotte, Lee and Collier have been happening since last October.

Gretchen Lovewell, manager of the stranding investigations program at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, said her team recovers dead and sick sea turtles in the Sarasota area.

“Right now, our number of all turtles is 112 for 2018. That's actually already eclipsing our annual average of 100, so we've been pretty busy,” Lovewell said.

Hi there! I’m Dinorah Prevost and I’m the producer of Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show. That basically means that I plan, record and edit the interviews we feature on the show.