Sunday, September 18, 2005

Venice Police discovered a carcass of bottlenose dolphin

Dolphin carcass found at Marker 12

Venice Police Department towed a young 125-pound dead bottlenose dolphin to Higel Park Thursday morning. The dolphin, picked up near Marker 12, is the latest in a string of dolphin deaths local officials attribute to the affects of red tide.

VPD marine patrol officer Phil Phillips and trainee Paul Joyce were on their morning rounds when they received a call from Venice Yacht Club members who reported the floating carcass.
Officers attached a rope to the tail of the dolphin and towed it to Higel Park in Venice, where Mote Marine specialists took possession. Mote will perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

"This is the aftermath of red tide," Phillips said. "It's the worst year for fish and marine mammal kills, definitely."

There were no propeller marks of other lacerations, said officers. Although you can't see signs of blunt trauma on a mammal (the death could have been caused by collision with a boat), said Phillips, he believes red tide is the culprit.

"There's been a lot of dead pinfish in the water lately," he said. "That's the first sign (of red tide). They die off, float to the top, then settle back down on the ocean floor. They go away. Often dolphins will detect this and leave the area as well.

"Three weeks ago we saw three sea turtles wash up ashore. Then there were dead manatees. Now it's the dolphins' turn."

One of several

Phillips estimated the floating mammal had been dead five to seven days due to its bloated, blackened condition. Live bottlenose dolphins are gray with a white underbelly.

It's the first dolphin death in Venice that Phillips has seen in a few years, and one of the few he has seen in his 16 years on the water.

Phllips said a dolphin death was reported in the Anna Maria area this week. Two dead dolphins were reported yesterday morning in the Sarasota area.

Victoria Socha, biologist for the Mote Stranding Investigations Program, took possession of the dolphin. Socha said Mote Marine will perform a streamlined necropsy. Mammal carcasses are transported to the St. Petersburg lab, which serves as the state's pathobiology facility.

"Normally we test for various causes. Because the carcass is so old and decomposed, we will take just a few organ samples and test only for red tide," Socha said.

Red tide on the rise

Statistics show the number of marine mammal kills this year far exceed previous years.
The annual average deaths reported for bottlenose dolphins since 1985 is 18. Back in 1982 83 sea turtle kills were reported.

From January to September, 25 bottlenose dolphins, four whales and 140 sea turtles have washed up in Sarasota County and parts of Manatee County and surrounding waterways.
Mote Marine plans to release necropsy findings for all the recently collected marine mammals within the next few months, Socha said.

"The hypothesis is red tide is causing a majority of the deaths. We're waiting for all the data and still testing," she said.

A red tide bloom first sighted in January continues in Southwest Florida from Pinellas County to Lee County. High concentrations of Karenia brevis, the Florida red tide organism, were found at several sampling sites along the coast of Sarasota County, including the Venice Municipal Pier, in the last week, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Web site.


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