Florida officials trying to determine if whale shark on Sanibel Island is red tide victim

U.S. & World

Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission scientists are trying to determine the cause of death of a 25-foot-long whale shark that was found on Sanibel Island.

The waterways off Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties have been heavily impacted by red tide. 

FWC’s Dr Gregg Poulakis and NOAA’s Dr Jose Castro and FWC staff members performed a necropsy on the whale shark on Tuesday. The shark appeared to be newly deceased.

The necropsy was part of FWC’s response to the red tide that is killing marine life in southwest Florida.

FWC research staff has traveled to impacted areas to confirm species identification and location, estimate the number of dead fish and obtain samples from fish carcasses.

On Tuesday, a FWC biologist also performed a necropsy on a goliath grouper. FWC staff also transported a large adult female manatee to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, who then transported the manatee to SeaWorld for rehabilitation.

FWC has been monitoring the red tide bloom since November of 2017. FWC says it has processed 7,397 water samples. 

As of Aug. 8, FWC has received more than 300 fish kill reports associated with the current red tide bloom. 

FWC is working with Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, and the University of South Florida College of Marine Science to collect the most current bloom data.

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