Three More Dead Dolphins Wash Ashore

By: Courtney Hayes
By: Courtney Hayes

Three dead dolphins washed ashore Monday, bringing the total death count to a little more than 100 in less than a month. Biologists say red tide is the most likely culprit for the die-off, but there's still a question as to why so many have died in such a small period of time.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions. This isn't the first time a dolphin die-off has been possibly linked to red tide here in the Panhandle, but this time the number of dead animals has climbed at a much faster rate.

"We see red tide a lot along the coast and particularly in St. Joe Bay. Matter of fact, if you remember back to 1999 and 2000 we had an event that effected the whole Gulf Coast," says On-Site Coordinator, Ron Hardy.

That red tide outbreak killed about 150 dolphins over a seven-month period along the Panhandle, but in this month alone about 104 dolphins have already washed ashore.

Biologists have been preserving the dolphins so they can continue to take samples for testing. They believe the high death count could be linked to a higher concentration of red tide.

"In certain conditions you get a bloom when lots of algae have exactly what they need to grow. They multiple and reproduce, and you get a large concentration of them and they can turn the water red, that's why it's called red tide, and when you get these large concentration you get toxin," says Biologist Sarah Wilkin.

Wilkin says they still haven't been able to find the red tide bloom, but that's probably because it’s far offshore and deep beneath the Gulf's surface, which may be why people visiting the beach haven't been affected by the red tide.

Some of the dolphins found in recent days have been dead for a while, which leads biologists to believe that the red tide may be clearing up.

"If there's no more events than it's not a big problem, but if it crops up every month or every two weeks than this could be a bigger event yet," says Hardy.

There have been documented cases of red tide as far back as the 1500s, and there's really nothing biologist can do but let nature run its course.


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