11th dolphin found dead; red tide suspected

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"Speck" was one of the most well-known dolphins studied by the Chicago Zoological Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. At just 12 years old, he's been documented more than 340 times since his birth in 2006.

His mother and grandmother both died after ingesting fishing gear. 

"Speck had previously interacted with humans and had scars from that when he was alive," said Gretchen Lovewell, manager of Mote Marine Laboratory's stranding investigation program. 

Unfortunately, Mote's stranding staff recovered Speck's body in an area where red tide has been present. 

"The ones we had been seeing offshore were very consistent, previously, with red tide dolphins. He had some of those findings. He had a stomach full of fish, however his were more digested than the ones we had seen from offshore. He had an issues with one of his lungs he had some adhesions which were an indication to a prior injury or sickness," Lovewell continued. 

His loss comes with the harsh reality that red tide is causing a big problem in our area. Eleven dead dolphins have been recovered in a week from the Sarasota area. Samples from Speck will be sent to the FWC to confirm that red tide caused his death. 

"They are vital to Sarasota Bay, to our economy as a whole, and our tourism," said Adam Stoneking, a Sarasota business owner. 

LINK: Red tide FAQ: What is it, and where does it come from?

At Marina Jack, Le Barge Tropical Cruises sits empty. Red tide has canceled 10 cruises this week. Even more unsettling is the fact general manager Adam Stoneking said they haven't seen the local dolphin populations lately. 

"The fact that we just aren't seeing them and that they're not in the area anymore shows just how bad of a problem it is," he said. 

As he continues to wait it out, he only hopes more resident dolphins aren't affected. 

"It's tragic. It really it. It's something I have personally never seen in the 16 years I've been here. Not to this level," he said.