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9 Dolphins Found Dead, Experts Believe 'Red Tide' Is Killing Wildlife

VENICE, Fla. (CBS Local) - Nine dead bottlenose dolphins found in Sarasota County are believed to be victims of a deadly organism blooming in the waters of Florida's Gulf coast.

The nine dolphins reportedly washed ashore over a three-day period from Aug. 7 to Aug. 9 and are believed to have been infected by an outbreak of red tide. "A red tide, or harmful algal bloom, is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plantlike organism)," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) explained on their website.

"Many red tides produce toxic chemicals that can affect both marine organisms and humans. The Florida red tide organism, K. brevis, produces brevetoxins that can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates, causing these animals to die."

Gretchen Lovewell of the Mote Marine Laboratory says this year's red tide blooms are the worst she's seen in her career. "On a scale of 1-10, we are definitely a 10," Lovewell told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

"One day you go out and it's all dead eel, and the next day you see its all dead horseshoe crabs. It (red tide) works its way up the system."

Florida officials are urging boaters along the coast to watch out for mammals like dolphins and manatees. Biologists believe they will be staying closer to the surface of the water as they try to breath in the contaminated seas.

FWC added that over 700 dolphins died during a year-long red tide event from 1987 to 1988.

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