On any given day, Mote's 200-plus researchers are in the field collecting information or asking for public help gathering information for important marine research studies. These environmental updates change regularly, reflecting Florida's ever-changing environment. Mote invites you to visit regularly for new information.
Beach Conditions Report
Florida Keys Environmental Observations
Sea Turtle Nesting
Tips to Help Keep Wildlife Safe on the Water and Dolphin Friendly Fishing and Viewing Tips
Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Strandings
Dolphin Friendly Fishing and Viewing Tips
The Beach Conditions Report provides several types of information about Southwest Florida beaches during Red Tide events: whether dead fish are present, whether there is respiratory irritation among beachgoers, what the water color is, the wind direction and what flags are currently flying at the beaches (for lifeguard-monitored beaches).
Mote Marine Laboratory studies Karenia brevis, the organism that causes Red Tides in Florida.
Click here for an overview about Mote's Red Tide research.
Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Red Tide.
Click here for a primer on the differences between Red Tide and red drift algae.
Information about Seafood and Red Tide
Please note that it is safe to eat shellfish that are commercially harvested and sold in fish markets, restaurants and other outlets. Florida has a well-established monitoring program for all commercial shellfish beds and these beds are closed when affected by Red Tide or other environmental conditions. Note: It is not advisable to harvest shellfish recreationally, unless you first check on the status of the location (open or closed) with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Click here for more information.
For recreational fishing: Fish that act as they would normally when hooked should be safe to eat as long as they are fileted first and the innards discarded.
More Information about Red Tide
For conditions throughout the Florida Gulf coast, with information about cell concentrations observed at specific locations and closed shellfish areas, please see the FWC web site and follow the link to “Red Tide Current Status.” The FWC Red Tide Status Line is now available for callers to hear a recording detailing Red Tide conditions throughout the state. FWC updates the recording each Friday by 5 p.m. after sampling efforts for the week have been completed and analyzed.
- Red Tide Status Line: (866) 300-9399 (toll-free inside Florida only); (727) 552-2448 (outside Florida).
- For information about the Human Health and Red Tide Studies funded by the National Institutes for Environmental Health Services, click here.
- If you need immediate assistance regarding health related issues, please call the Marine and Freshwater Toxin hotline at 1 (888) 232-8635. It is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- For more information about water conditions on Sarasota County beaches, please click on this link to the Sarasota County Healthy Beaches website.
- A Red Tide Q&A with Mote researchers from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
- Info on Trichodesmium.
Florida Keys Environmental Observations
Mote's Marine Ecosystem Event Response and Assessment Program is operated in the Florida Keys through the Tropical Research Laboratory and it invites members of the public who frequent the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and its surrounding areas to provide information about unusual events they witness in that ecosystem. The project is designed to help the scientific community better understand the nature and causes of marine events that adversely affect marine organisms and to assist ongoing research efforts to understand and assess new events.
There is no specialized training necessary to participate. No paperwork is required. By simply providing information about unusual events - what they were, where they were and when they were - residents can help alert scientists to potential large-scale problems before they develop. Past reports have included information about coral disease or bleaching, algal blooms or discolored water, diseased or dead animals and sick or stranded marine mammals and sea turtles.
Sea Turtle Nesting Updates
Sea turtles nest along Southwest Florida beaches from May through October. Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program monitors 35 miles of beaches in Sarasota and Manatee counties daily to check for new nests.
Tips for Protecting Marine Life
As you enjoy Southwest Florida’s beaches and coastal waters, please be vigilant for marine animals and follow the best practices below to avoid harming sea turtles, dolphins and manatees. These tips matter year ‘round — especially during the summer boating season, when sea turtles are swimming just offshore to mate and coming ashore to nest, and dolphins and manatees are also on the move for breeding and feeding. Sea turtles, dolphins and manatees are all protected by federal law.
Dolphin-Friendly Fishing and Viewing Tips (PDF)
Tips for Boaters:
- Follow Coast Guard-approved safe boating guidelines and use vigilance to avoid striking marine animals.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to see marine life in your path.
- Follow posted signs for slow-speed zones.
- Follow 10 dolphin-friendly fishing and viewing tips. Click here for a PDF. (These tips were made with dolphins in mind, but they're also great guidelines for the best ways to view all large marine animals.)
- Never feed marine wildlife. Click here to watch a PSA about why it’s harmful and illegal to feed wild dolphins: www.dontfeedwilddolphins.org.
- Stow trash and line when under way. Marine debris that accidentally blows overboard or out of a truck can become ingested by or entangled around marine life.
- If you observe a manatee mating herd - several manatees gathered as males vie to mate with a female - watch the manatees from at least 100 feet away. Coming any closer might disrupt the animals' natural mating behavior or put people into harm's way. Adult manatees typically weigh upwards of 1,000 pounds and people can be seriously injured.
Tips for Beachgoers:
Sea turtle nesting season takes place from May 1-Oct. 31 on Southwest Florida beaches. On nesting beaches, light from waterfront properties can disorient nesting female turtles and their young, which emerge at night and use dim natural light to find the sea. Also, beach furniture, trash and other obstacles can impede sea turtles and their young.
Here are some “do and don’t” tips to keep our beaches turtle-friendly:
- DO stay away from sea turtle nests marked with yellow stakes and tape, and seabird nesting zones that are bounded by ropes.
- DO remain quiet and observe from a distance if you encounter a nesting sea turtle or hatchlings.
- DO shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach from May through October.
- DO close drapes after dark and stack beach furniture at the dune line or, ideally, remove it from the beach
- DO fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water.
- DON’T approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles.
- DON’T use flashlights, head lamps or fishing lamps on the beach.
- DON’T encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the water.
- DON’T use fireworks on the beach.
- DON’T walk dogs on any Sarasota County beach other than Brohard Paw Park in Venice. There, dogs must be leashed or under voice control, according to county ordinances.
To report a sick or injured marine animal, please see the guidelines below.
Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Strandings
Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program responds 24 hours a day seven days a week to reports of sick, injured and dead marine mammals and sea turtles for animals in Sarasota and Manatee county waters. Live animals are brought back to Mote’s Dolphin and Whale Hospital or Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital for treatment and the deceased animals undergo a detailed post-mortem examination so that we may learn more about the natural history of these animals and evaluate long-term trends in mortality.
Within Sarasota or Manatee county waters, if you see a stranded or dead dolphin, whale or sea turtle, please call Mote's Stranding Investigations Program, a 24-hour response service, at (941) 988-0212.
If you see a stranded or dead manatee anywhere in state waters or a stranded or dead dolphin, whale or sea turtle outside of Sarasota or Manatee counties, please call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at 1 (888) 404-FWCC (3922).
Mote has been operating its own weather station since 1980. Check here for current conditions and historical information.