Red Tide Dolphin Deaths Prompt Federal Investigation Into Florida Disaster

A rash of dolphin deaths amidst Florida's red tide disaster has prompted a federal investigation into the situation.

According to a Weather Channel report, at least 41 dolphins perished over the last month since the algae bloomed on the southwest coast of Florida causing the fatal red tide. Because there are so many documented deaths, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries agency declared the situation an "unusual mortality event." That declaration allows the agency to launch a study into the case.

Karenia brevis causes the red tide to form naturally in marine waters. The red colored algae poison the sea life that lives in its waters and causes massive die-offs. Veterinarian Teri Rowles, the coordinator for NOAA's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Program, said, "In red tide events, we know the animals often die acutely with high levels of brevetoxins in their bodies and in their stomach. But....even when the bloom is gone we may see an increase in mortality."

In mid-August, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties.

In addition to unusually high dolphin deaths, the region has also experienced a rash of human health problems, according to a report from NBC News. Residents in the area suffered difficulty breathing, coughs, and headaches as a result of the red tide.

Affected Siesta Key resident, Monet Sexaure, 40, who is four months pregnant, said, "I thought I was coming down with a cold. But I never got a cold."

Eventually, a flareup in headaches while she walked along the beach helped the mother to be put everything together.

For about ten months now, the Karenia brevis algae have affected the region, and as fish deaths have risen, the situation eventually became an emergency. The brevetoxins that the algae emit cause health issues not only in sea life but also in humans. The entire region is experiencing an increase in breathing complaints and other respiratory problems.

Unfortunately, there's not much research about the effects of brevetoxins on humans, but one area allergist, Dr. Charles Klucka, believes that the red tide has caused at least 20 percent more patients to come into his practice looking for answers this year. He said, "For people that live exposed months and months, we don't know the long-term effects."

This red tide has lasted around ten months so far, but in recent history, some red tides have lasted as long as 21 long months. The area recently received $1 million in funding from Congress to study the environmental and human impact of the red tide.