SIESTA KEY (FOX 13) - As dead fish and marine animals continue to pile up on the shores of Southwest Florida beaches, Florida Fish and Wildlife officials are asking for help reporting dead and sick animal sightings.
“As we continue to work with our partners to respond to the ongoing red tide event in Southwest Florida, we ask that you report any dead or distressed marine mammals and see turtles to our wildlife alert hotline,” the FWC wrote on its official Instagram account Wednesday alongside images of workers rescuing a manatee sickened by red tide exposure.
Florida’s southwest waterways are currently under assault by two different combatants: A red tide bloom from the Gulf of Mexico and a separate toxic algae bloom, which many believe is linked to discharge from Lake Okeechobee.
The blooms are killing fish and marine life. Dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and even a whale shark have washed ashore in southern Florida. A map released by FWC officials on Wednesday shows a red tide hot zone stretching from Manasota Beach in the south up to Sarasota in the north.
Mote Marine Laboratory scientists caution that time is of the essence in delivering care to an animal sickened by red tide.
“They become very disoriented, uncoordinated in the water so ultimately when they can't swim they are in an aquatic environment. They will drown typically," explained Gretchen Lovewell, the program manager for Mote Marine Laboratory's Stranding Investigations Program (SIP).
FWC officials also want to quickly remove the bodies of dead marine life because their decomposition only works to fuel an already relentless red tide bloom. The FWC also explains the carcasses are valuable for a cause of death determination and understanding marine health threats.
To report an injured, sick or dead marine animal contact the FWC at 1-888-404-FWCC.