VENICE (FOX 13) - As red tide ravages southwest Florida, organizations like Mote Marine Laboratory rely on help from local law enforcement agencies to rescue and recover animals who've succumbed to the red tide.
The Venice Marine Patrol has officers on the water who say it's becoming a daily and heart-wrenching job to help locate and bring in dead marine life.
Master police officer Paul Joyce keeps his eyes open for marine life that may need his help. His patrol zone has been ravaged by red tide for months.
Over the last week, his job has become more of a recovery effort.
“We've recently gotten reports of a dead sea turtle washed up here at the south jetty," Joyce said.
Working together with the FWC and Mote Marine, he brings in dead animals - and there are lots of them.
Recovery is important. These animals could hold the answers that many have about the deadly algae bloom. Also, if left in the water, the decay can worsen red tide.
They're brought to Mote Marine Laboratory or the FWC for necropsies to take place.
“It's very difficult for us to deal with this stuff. This isn't something we have to deal with every day on a daily basis, but unfortunately with the red tide, which we suspect we are having to deal with this on a daily basis," Officer Joyce said.
On Thursday morning, Officer Joyce recovered two dead bottlenose dolphins near Casey Key. They are the kind of marine mammals he's grown close to and, with each death comes the reminder of how deadly the bloom remains.
“Red tide, unfortunately, is a very slow death. They're basically suffocating. It would be like somebody holding a pillow there over your face. It would be a very long and agonizing death," Joyce said.
As tough as each recovery IS, Officer Joyce goes to work knowing he is helping during a time that seems so helpless.
Since Tuesday, nine bottlenose dolphins have been recovered from the Venice area. Mote Marine Laboratory says red tide appears to have caused their deaths.