The carcass of an adult whale shark washed up on a Sanibel beach Sunday morning.
posted to Facebook shows the 21-foot-long shark lying lifeless on the sand. The shark was reportedly found among dead fish, raising speculation that red tide
may have something to do with the animal's death, according to the News-Press.
The southwest Florida coast is typically plagued with the toxic chemical-producing algal bloom that harms both marine and human life. Red tide growth in the Gulf of Mexico is normal, but high concentrations can be concerning. Currently, Florida's southwest coast
is facing concentrations ranging from very low to high. Sanibel Island, in particular, is seeing very low concentrations offshore, but there is no information available about inshore reports, according to FWC's Red Tide Report
for July 20.
A marine biologist told the News-Press
it's likely the shark died Saturday night or Sunday morning. Beachgoers have been warned to stay away from the dead creature, as officials are letting the shark naturally decay in the Gulf.
Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission biologists have collected tissue samples to take back to the lab for testing. Toxicology results may give examiners a full picture of what happened to the shark. The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum worked with a marine laboratory in Sarasota to try to identify the shark as a tagged animal, but it did not appear to belong to the biologists' group of tracked marine life.
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