April 25, 2006

Sea Turtle Deaths Rising in Southwest Fla.

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) - An increase in sea turtle deaths so far this year has scientists concerned that remnants of the deadly 2005 red tide is lingering off the southwest Florida coast.

Monitors recorded 76 turtle strandings between Pinellas and Collier counties this year compared to 66 for the same period in 2005. On Monday, authorities buried a 150-pound loggerhead turtle that washed up on Naples Beach in southwestern Florida. The cause of the turtle's death is unknown.

"We've had so many of them I can't keep track of them anymore," said Maura Kraus, director of Collier County's sea turtle monitoring program.

In 2005, red tide is believed to be the cause of 216 sea turtle strandings on beaches from Pasco to Collier counties between July and mid-October. Most of the turtles died. Red tide is a microscopic algae bloom that emits a toxin that can kill fish and cause respiratory illness in humans.

Remains of an offshore red tide may be responsible for the higher level of 2006 turtle deaths, said Allen Foley, a wildlife biologist at the Florida Wildlife Research institute in St. Petersburg.


Information from: Naples Daily News, http://www.naplesnews.com