Hundreds Of Sea Turtles Dead In Florida After This Year's Red Tide

Research suggests the harmful algae bloom has been exacerbated by climate change
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
It takes loggerhead sea turtles more than 20 years to reach maturity

Hundreds of sea turtles have been turning up dead on Florida shores this year in a tragedy which experts believe to be linked to Red Tide, a natural phenomenon exacerbated by rising temperatures.

Untimely deaths

The number of sea turtle deaths reported this year is unprecedented.

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Sea Turtle Researcher Kelly Sloan said: "Our average for the entire year is usually around 30 or 35, but we’ve had 53 in June and July alone."

Meanwhile, more than 160 have been uncovered between Collier and Sarasota County, with a massive 300-pound animal appearing ashore on Manasota Key.

Sloan explained that only 1 in 1,000 loggerhead turtles reach maturity, which takes 25 to 30 years - meaning that the potential for repopulation is severely compromised by the upswing in mortality rate.

An arial photo of the red tide bloom in Southwest Florida (Photo: Facebook)

Red Tide

Red Tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon - an algal bloom so dense that it changes the appearance of surrounding waters, and can be toxic to local sea life.

While it predominantly kills smaller animals, such as crab and bottom feeders, Sloan says she is 'very confident' that this year's bloom is the cause of the sea turtle deaths.

Climate change

Researchers believe that climate change is at the root of particularly aggressive algal blooms.

Mike Shlasko of the Coastal Wildlife Club said: "Red Tide is caused by a combination of warm water temperatures and low salinity and nutrients."

According to the website of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, even in instances where the climate-exacerbated blooms are nontoxic, they can create uninhabitable environments for sea life, decreasing oxygen levels, 'blocking out sunlight' and 'clogging fish gills'.

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PBN Contributor:

Emily Court is a passionate ethical vegan from Eastern Canada. She is a Challenge 22 Mentor, Digital Writer, and experienced animal advocate driven by issues of animal liberation and social justice. She studied at Dalhousie University, where her thesis highlighted intercultural and gender relations. She is an established public speaker, writer, and world traveller with a drive to provide a voice to those who might not otherwise have one. You can follow her on Instagram @emily.j.court or on Twitter @_EmilyJCourt_.

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