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SANIBEL, Fla. -- The Southwest Florida coast might be clear from red tide, but it’s still killing off marine life.
“There was almost no live animals left for a while for months after the red tide, the anoxic water killed everything on the bottom,” said Richard Bartleson, Research Scientist, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation.
The 2018 red tide event lasted roughly 16 months. And scientists like Bartleson are researching the impact on marine life from red tide. He's studying the levels of Brevetoxin from food found in sea turtle's stomach.
“Even though the red tide went away, the food web is still contaminated,” said Bartleson.
More than 240 sea turtles washed ashore on Sanibel-Captiva, and across the Southwest coast of Florida that number is 1,200.
National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration is conducting similar tests. As of July 2018, 174 bottlenose dolphins have died from Pinellas to Collier counties. Under the Marine Animal Protection Act, last summer an Unusual Mortality Event, UME was created.
“We were able to confirm there were breve toxins levels in the mammals, we know that those levels were high enough to kill the dolphins,” said Deborah Fauquier, NOAA Veterinary Medical Officer.
Fauquier says almost 50 percent of the dead bottlenose dolphins had increased levels of brevetoxin in them, “issues in the brain and throughout the body, in dolphins and manatees we think it causes seizures,” said Fauquier.
Dolphins consume fish, some people eat fish, are we at risk?
“The flesh isn’t where the toxin ends up, even with crabs you are eating the muscle not getting the toxin," said Bartleson.
Bartleson says to stay away from eating filter feeders like oysters and clams. Dead marine life may continue to wash on our shores for months to come.
If you see an injured or dead marine life while on the beach, NOAA is encouraging you to call the hotline, 1-877-942-5343. For more information click here .