Could this be due to climate change? Or is something else going on?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had received reports of “abnormal fish behavior, including spinning and whirling” affecting roughly 40 species of fish, and that there had also been reports of fish deaths.

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Some suggest it might be a toxin…

“No abnormal water quality parameters have been identified by any of the environmental health agencies that regularly monitor the waters there,” Michael Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory, told CBS News. “This seems to be some kind of an agent that is in the water that is negatively impacting just the fish species.”

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The mysterious and concerning phenomenon of strange fish behavior in the Florida Keys, particularly affecting the endangered smalltooth sawfish, has captured the attention of researchers, conservationists, and the public alike. Here’s a concise breakdown of the situation:

3 Key Facts about the Strange Fish Behavior:

  1. Widespread Phenomenon: Over 40 different fish species, including the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish, have been observed exhibiting unusual behaviors such as spinning, whirling, and swimming upside down in the waters near the Lower Florida Keys[12][17]. This abnormal behavior has raised alarms among scientists and conservationists due to its potential impact on marine life and ecosystem health.

  2. Sawfish Mortality: More than 28 dead smalltooth sawfish have been recorded as of late March 2024, with the true death toll likely higher since the bodies of these large fish typically sink[12]. Given the limited population size of smalltooth sawfish, this mortality rate could significantly impact the recovery of the species, which has been federally protected as endangered since 2003[13][14].

  3. Investigations and Response: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), in collaboration with NOAA and other organizations, is actively investigating the cause of the abnormal fish behavior and sawfish deaths. Despite ruling out several potential triggers, such as bacterial infections, algal toxins, and environmental factors like temperature and salinity, the exact cause remains unknown[12][17][18][19]. An emergency response effort to rescue affected sawfish is underway, marking the first attempt to save this species from an unknown threat[12].

2 Concerns Raised by the Phenomenon:

  1. Impact on Endangered Species: The smalltooth sawfish, already listed as endangered and the first marine fish to receive federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, faces a new and immediate threat from this mysterious phenomenon[13][14]. The loss of even a small number of individuals could hinder the species' fragile recovery efforts.

  2. Ecosystem Health: The widespread and unexplained behavior affecting a broad range of fish species suggests a potential underlying issue with the marine ecosystem in the Florida Keys[12][17]. This situation underscores the importance of maintaining healthy and balanced marine environments to support diverse marine life.

1 Urgent Need:

  • Identifying the Cause: The most pressing need is to identify the cause of the strange fish behavior and sawfish deaths. Understanding the underlying factors is crucial for developing effective interventions to mitigate the impact on affected species and prevent future occurrences. Ongoing research, public reporting of sightings, and collaborative efforts among governmental and conservation organizations are vital components of the response strategy[12][17][18][19].

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