Watch: Hundreds of Sharks Congregate in West Florida Canals

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

The sharks are believed to be seeking shelter from the red tide

Sharks are gathering in the canals of Longboat Key, Florida, by the hundreds, likely to escape the red tide.

Janelle Branowner told Fox 13 News she noticed numerous sharks of all sizes in the canals of Buttonwood Harbor.

“It was like all of these fins and all of a sudden you would see a great big shark come underneath all the little ones and it was like ‘holy cow,’” she said.

Branowner called experts, who said the red tide is most likely to blame for driving the bonnethead, lemon, and nurse sharks into the canal.

Dr. Bob Hueter, the chief scientist of Ocearch, said, “This is an unnatural thing. These sharks are not here through their own choice. They are there because they are seeking refuge from red tide which could kill them.”

Hueter said a similar phenomenon was documented in 1992 near Lower Tampa Bay, where six or seven shark species came in and then dispersed.

He said oxygen levels in the canals could be helped by air stones that bubble water into the canal.

Senior biologist Jack Morris with Mote Marine Laboratory measured the water temperature at 90 degrees and said oxygen levels are depleting.

“The reason why it’s concerning is if there’s not enough oxygen, they will overexert themselves trying to get fresh water over their gills so they can exchange their CO2 for oxygen but with all those animals packed in that space oxygen is limiting,” Morris said.

Morris said if red tide continues much longer, the sharks could run out of food and energy and die.

Contact Mote Marine Laboratory at 941-388-4441 or the FWC at 888-404-FWCC (3922) if you see anything similar to the video above.

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