Santa Claus greets a shy Carly Wade, 3, after last year’s Anna Maria Island Privateers Christmas Parade. The AMIP parade is at 10 a.m. Dec. 10, beginning at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria and ending at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. Islander File Photo: Lisa Neff
Planning to attend Anna Maria Island’s holiday celebrations?
The Islander has a challenge: How many events can you attend with Santa on Anna Maria Island in December?
Take a Santa photo at each, be sure to note the event, location and date, and post to The Islander’s Facebook page.
At the end of the month — after St. Nick’s final visit late Dec. 24 or early Dec. 25 — The Islander will tally up the photographs to decide who visited with Santa at the most events.
The winner receives an Islander More Than a Mullet Wrapper T-shirt and $50.
AMI ushers in holidays
By Lisa Neff
’Twas the month before Christmas, when all across the Island organizers were stirring, preparing for holiday festivities.
St. Nicholas soon will be here — and will return most weekends in December.
A glance at Anna Maria Island’s holiday calendar:
• Through the holidays, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, will collect donations for Toys for Tots.
• Dec. 1-11, at 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, the Island Players presents performances of the holiday-themed comedy “Those Crazy Ladies in the House on the Corner,” written by David Patrick Cook and directed by Russ Carthy.
The theater is at 10009 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.
For more information, including box office details, go to www.theislandplayers.org.
• Dec. 2, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Holmes Beach merchants and the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, host a holiday open house.
Most of the activity will take place in the city’s downtown.
Santa will be hanging out at The Islander, 5404 Marina Drive, with the Anna Maria Island Privateers.
At the chamber office, 5313 Gulf Drive, merchants and the chamber board will light a Christmas tree at about 5 p.m.
Additionally, Holmes Beach arts groups — Artists Guild of Anna Maria Island, Island Gallery West and the Anna Maria Island Art League — will be open extended hours for receptions with artists.
For more information, call 941-778-1541.
• Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, is the site of the annual Lester-Islander Family Fun Day.
The event features Duffy burgers and other lunch items, plus games and activities for children and raffles for adults. Santa will arrive by fire truck at about noon.
For more information, call 941-778-1908.
• Dec. 7, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria, hosts an Island Christmas with music by Gulf Drive Solo to benefit the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra. Tickets are $8 in advance at the chamber or $10 at the event in the Sandbar pavilion.
For more information, go to www.amicco.org or call 941-778-8585.
• Dec. 9, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Anna Maria businesses host a citywide holiday open house. Participating businesses will stay open extended hours to toast the season.
Santa, sources say, will be out and about that night.
• Dec. 10, 10 a.m., the Anna Maria Island Privateers Christmas Parade takes place, traveling from Bayfront Park in Anna Maria to Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.
All floats must be staged by 9:30 a.m. and all entries must be motorized — including Santa’s sleigh.
There is no charge to participate in the parade.
For more information, call 941-752-5973.
• Dec. 10, 11 a.m., the Anna Maria Island Privateers host a post-parade Christmas party at Coquina Beach, where Santa will visit with children and hand out presents.
Also, the Privateers will provide a free lunch of hot dogs and soda pop for children.
• Dec. 10, 6:30 p.m., Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, holds the annual Bethlehem Walk, beginning and ending at the church.
For more information, call 941-778-0414.
• Dec. 10-11, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Anna Maria Island Art League’s Winterfest features a wide variety of artists offering items to deck the halls throughout the year.
The annual event takes place at Holmes Beach City Field, 5800 block of Marina Drive.
For more information, call 941-778-2099.
• Dec. 13, 10:30 a.m., the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria, hosts the 17th annual Lawton Chiles Kids Christmas Party, featuring lunch and a visit from a Santa Claus bearing gifts — a holiday outfit and toys — for children.
For more information, or to help with presenting the party, call 941-778-0444.
• Dec. 17, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., the Anna Maria Island Moose Lodge No. 2188, 110 Gulf Drive S., Bradenton Beach, hosts a holiday party for children 10 and under.
Santa will hand out presents and the Moose will deliver lunch courtesy of the Women of the Moose Chapter 1601.
Pre-registration is required at the lodge by Dec. 10.
For more information, call 941-778-4110.
• Dec. 17, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Florida Maritime Museum and the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage host a Music on the Porch Christmas Celebration at the museum’s old Burton Store, 4415 119th St. W., Cortez.
Instrumentalists are invited to join a jam session. And music enthusiasts are invited to applaud.
For more information, call 941-708-6120.
• Dec. 17, The Islander hosts the Where’s Woody Holiday Sidewalk Sale outside its office, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.
Local artists offer their work, some at heavily discounted prices, for holiday shoppers and art-enthusiasts.
For more information or to become a participating artist, call The Islander at 941-778-7978.
• Dec. 17, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., the Bridge Street Merchants hosts the annual Christmas on Bridge Street celebration, featuring visits with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, raffles, a children’s gift bazaar, carols and holiday specials in the stores and restaurants, and a lighted boat parade by members of the Cortez Yacht Club.
For more information, call 941-778-8705.
• Dec. 18, at 2 p.m., the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra presents “A Classical Holiday,” featuring holiday-themed music, including portions of “Messiah.”
The concert takes place at Crosspointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.
For more information, including ticket details, visit www.amicco.org.
• Dec. 27, the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count takes place on Anna Maria and Perico islands and Longboat Key, as well as Cortez.
The count is organized by the Manatee County Audubon Society chapter and coordinated by David Williamson, who is registering volunteers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bradenton Beach City Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.
The agenda includes a public hearing on a request for a special exception to erect a dock on Sarasota Bay at 500 Bay Drive S.
The planning and zoning board did not recommend approval because of concerns about boater navigation at the location.
The agenda also includes:
• Consideration of an agreement between Manatee County and the city for the policing of Coquina Beach. The county manages the beach and contracts with the city for law enforcement.
• Final reading of an ordinance repealing the city’s firearms rules to comply with a new state law.
• Final reading of an ordinance on parking that prohibits overnight parking in public lots and also prohibits the parking of RVs and other large vehicles in the lots.
• Consideration of a proposal to tent Tingley Memorial Library to eliminate termites.
• Discussion on the color of parking wheel stops — white versus yellow — in a city parking lot near the police and public works departments at Highland Avenue.
• Discussion on trimming 10 Australian pine trees along the shore at Herb Dolan Park. Property owners in the area offered to pay for the trimming.
The commission will not meet again in December, according to the city schedule.
J.D. and Big, canine companions from Holmes Beach, enjoy time on the beach — certain hours in summer season and anytime the rest of the year — on the shore in Virgina Beach. Islander Photo: Socko Pearson
There’s no formal proposal to establish a dog-friendly beach on Anna Maria Island, but Islanders are barking about the concept.
An informal Islander survey, conducted on Facebook and randomly at local events in recent weeks, found a lack of a majority consensus — about a third are enthusiastic about strolling the beach with their pup, about a third are opposed to sharing the beach with a mutt and about a third lack a definite opinion.
“We need a dog beach closer to our area,” said Connie Schuessler Alkire, posting a vote in the “yes” column. “I’m tired of driving 30 minutes north or south to get to one.”
In the “no” column, Sheila Ann Kellogg said, “I like dogs, but people do not clean up after their animals.”
Meanwhile, undecided voter Ricky Lannon said, “I’d have to know about any environmental consequences first.”
There was a super-majority opinion, however. Most people surveyed were surprised to learn that there are no state or federal prohibitions against dogs on Anna Maria Island beaches. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, for example, is not involved with permitting dogs on beaches other than at state parks.
The prohibitions — or allowances — are established at the local level in municipal ordinances. Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach all have ordinances prohibiting dogs on the beach, while dogs are allowed on the Palma Sola Causeway beach, which is regulated by Bradenton.
Longboat Key also has an ordinance prohibiting dogs on the beach, but town officials are awaiting findings from a citizens advisory committee on the matter.
The Longboat Key committee is being chaired by an advocate for a dog-friendly beach as well as a representative from the town turtle-watch program, who has raised concerns.
On Anna Maria Island, turtle watch volunteers also have concerns, but executive director Suzi Fox said she’s not opposed to a dog-friendly beach.
“The main thing that I have is a concern about the birds,” Fox said, referring to resting, roosting and nesting shorebirds and migratory birds on the shore. “I’m not so worried about the turtle nests as the birds that need to rest and roost.”
Fox said in two decades she hasn’t documented a dog disturbing a turtle nest on the Island. However, she has seen dogs flush birds from the beach, activity that the National Audubon Society says can destroy a nesting colony.
An option would be to study a location not popular with birds, perhaps on the bayside, Fox said.
Several Bradenton Beach dog owners have suggested using the area near the boat ramp at Coquina Bayside, which is managed by Manatee County and policed by the Bradenton Beach Police Department.
“I think if there’s a place where people aren’t sunbathing and birds aren’t foraging, I’d go for it,” said Bradenton Beach resident Dave Elliott, who for now remains in the “undecided” column.
A Holmes Beach man faces 13 felony charges in DeSoto County in connection with a telecommunications sting operation.
Ronald Littlehale, 64, was arrested several weeks ago in Manatee County on a DeSoto County warrant.
He faces three felony charges of obscene communication/use of computer service to seduce. He also faces 10 felony charges of transmission of material harmful to minors.
Investigators with the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office allege that Littlehale had illegal, sexual communications via the Internet with someone he believed to be 13 years old.
Littlehale, who was released on bail, was scheduled for arraignment in DeSoto County on Nov. 29.
Commercial fisherman John L. Yates returns to a federal courtroom in December for sentencing for destroying evidence after taking under-sized grouper.
Yates, 59, a Holmes Beach resident who fishes out of Cortez, plans to appeal the conviction after his sentencing. He’s contesting the government’s case against him and maintains he neither destroyed evidence nor took short fish.
“It’s been rough getting through this,” Yates said last week. “I don’t understand what they’re trying to do.”
In August, a federal jury in Fort Myers convicted Yates on one charge of disposing of evidence to prevent seizure and one charge of destroying evidence to impede or obstruct a federal investigation. The jury did not convict Yates on a third count, lying to a federal agent.
The Justice Department touted the conviction in a press release. In the statement, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration special agent Tracy Dunn said the agency “takes acts of destroying evidence to impede an investigation very seriously, and will take appropriate measures to bring violators before the criminal courts.”
But Yates said government officials made mistakes when they boarded his boat to check his fish, when they investigated on shore in Cortez and when they argued their case in Fort Myers.
Agencies involved in Yates’ prosecution and arrest include the FWC, the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard.
The case dates back several years, to an August when Yates was captaining a small crew fishing for grouper. An FWC officer boarded the vessel to examine Yates’ catch.
After a lengthy inspection that involved unloading about 1,700 pounds of fish from the boat’s freezer onto the deck, he cited Yates for 72 short fish.
The officer left the catch with Yates, and another review took place in Cortez. In that inspection, officials alleged Yates had 69 short fish.
The discrepancy between the number of short fish counted at sea, 72, and the number counted on the shore, 69, would lead to the destruction of evidence charge.
But Yates denies the government assertion that he took short fish. The fisherman said there’s no incentive to take short fish because the fish house won’t buy them.
He also says the fish were improperly measured — measured in contradiction to federal law.
In March 2010, a couple years after the initial incident, Yates was indicted and arrested.
The trial took place in August.
The original sentencing date was delayed from Nov. 14 to Dec. 5.
Wife Sandy Yates said, “We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. If they can put Martha Stewart in jail for obstruction of justice, what do you think they will do to a regular Joe?”
Holmes Beach city commissioners heard impassioned pleas of residents to address enforcement issues relating to multi-unit and short-term rental properties following a two-hour regular commission meeting Nov. 22.
A consensus of commissioners advised residents that new Commission Chair David Zaccagnino can be asked to set a single-topic work session to address the hot-button issue.
Commissioner John Monetti suggested Dec.13 as the date for such a meeting.
The multi-use complaints stem from the issuance of occupancy permits based on affidavits provided the city by the owner that the property being built will be for single-family use. Widespread parking problems, construction traffic and reports of numerous renters residing in the properties are some indicators of a higher multi-family use.
“Right now we have a serious problem,” Renee Ferguson of 77th Street said of the 22 properties under construction she had counted. She described the city as appearing “like a hurricane just went through” and “a war zone.”
While complimenting the city on the responsiveness of the code enforcement officer to complaints about parking and other violations, Ferguson said “he is only one man,” and the magnitude of the problem requires a group to address it. She said the city has “great builders, Realtors and residents with integrity” who want to attend a meeting to address the issue.
“We’re talking about total neglect from the commissioners to enforce these codes and municipal ordinances,” said Ron Travis of 68th Street, who identified himself as a real estate agent, developer and owner. Travis asked the commission to “stop these short-term party houses.” He asked the city to “close the barn door now.” He suggested the city begin revoking permits. “You know they lied to you.”
Commissioner John Monetti took exception to the commission being blamed for the code enforcement problem, stating all of its members want to help residents on this issue. He favored the single-topic work session to address the matter.
Mayor Rich Bohnenberger pointed to questionable builder affidavits as the root of the enforcement problem. The mayor also said city staff is combing rental property records, and letters are going out addressing known violations.
Additionally, he said, the city is researching a new ordinance that would require one parking space for each bedroom in a rental home.
Newly elected Commissioner Jean Peelen initiated talk on the multi-family issue, requesting that the commission set a special public meeting, publicize it and specifically ask residents to bring possible solutions to resolve the problem of “multi-family homes destroying Holmes Beach.”
City attorney Patricia Petruff advised that recent state legislation has preempted the local regulation of short-term housing with the exception of local laws already in existence. The city has such an ordinance, but “if we change the ordinance we will lose it all,” Petruff said. “Our hands are tied.”
Peelen also introduced the possibility of a city moratorium on construction until a solution can be found.
While some residents and commission members voiced support for a moratorium, Petruff suggested she should first research other ordinances that have been challenged and report back to the commission.
Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens favored a single-topic work session to address both issues, but warned, “We can’t take away people’s property rights,” and there’s not much the commission can do “if they are allowed by our comp plan and codes.”
Petruff agreed with Haas-Martens, saying “at the end of the day there may be little that can be done.”
But Petruff added, calling a topic specific meeting might elicit “some ideas out there” that hadn’t yet surfaced.
The conflict resolution process initiated by Holmes Beach against Bradenton Beach over its 2008 quitclaim of 27th Street east of Gulf Drive to the Sandpiper Resort will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, in the Holmes Beach city commission chambers, 5801 Marina Drive.
Officials of both cities have said previously they hoped the issue could be resolved without escalating. Bradenton Beach city attorney Ricinda Perry, however, said at the Nov. 3 Bradenton Beach city commission meeting she was not confident, and observed that the dispute is “moving toward litigation.”
Holmes Beach commissioners passed the conflict resolution motion at their Sept. 13 meeting after discussing a fence along the boundary line. The commission, however, tabled the resolution to give the mayors of both cities the opportunity to resolve the issue informally.
At the same meeting, Holmes Beach commissioners asked city attorney Patricia Petruff to look into the quitclaim and a fence installed in August by the resort.
Petruff cautioned that conflict resolution could be expensive for both cities.
Several Holmes Beach commissioners said the fence restricted public access and lowered property values in the area for Holmes Beach property owners.
Sandpiper officials and then-Bradenton Beach Mayor Bob Bartelt maintained the fence did not restrict public access to public lands.
Sandpiper resident John Shaughnessy, then mayor-elect of Bradenton Beach, told Holmes Beach commissioners Sept. 13 that conflict resolution will do nothing but “create ill-will” between two neighbors.
Shaughnessy said the fence was constructed to keep out unlicensed golf carts from using the resort as a thoroughfare, not to restrict pedestrian traffic on 27th Street.
Until the fence went up, no one had complained about public access to 27th Street, he said.
However, Holmes Beach did send a letter of complaint to Bradenton Beach in 2008 when the quitclaim was approved.
Bohnenberger reported to the commission on Oct. 25 that he was unable to resolve the dispute after meeting with Bartelt.
And Petruff reported she could not find a recorded quitclaim to the Sandpiper, but did find a locked gate on her inspection.
Holmes Beach commissioners then voted 4-0 to proceed with conflict resolution. Commissioner John Monetti recused himself because he owns property near the boundary line between the two cities and could have a financial interest in the outcome.
At their Nov. 3 meeting, Bradenton Beach commissioners voted unanimously to stand by their quitclaim deed of 2008.
The Dec. 7 assessment meeting is open to the public, although public comment does not have to be taken, according to the Florida statute on conflict resolution between municipalities.
If a solution is not reached at that meeting, the two cities can schedule further conflict resolution meetings.
According to the Florida statute on conflict resolution, the two sides can also schedule a meeting with a mediator to find a solution, or select a mediator to hear the conflict.
If no tentative resolution is reached, the two cities draft a statement and “schedule a joint public meeting, or several meetings” between the two city commissions, the statute states.
If the two sides still can’t reach an agreement, the issue then must go to mediation. The cost of a mediator is divided equally between the two parties, the statute states, and each side must bear its own legal expenses.
Finally, if no suitable agreement is reached, the statute states the governmental entity “may avail themselves of available legal rights and remedies.”
There is no time limit to reach an agreement.
Thanks to improved collection methods, payment of past due accounts and an increase in tourism, resort tax collections in Manatee County for fiscal year 2010-11 set a record. The tax office reports that $7.104 million was collected for 2010-11, representing a seven percent increase from the previous record of $6.64 million set a year earlier.
The resort tax is the 5 percent assessed on homes, condos, duplex units or hotel-motel rooms that are rented for six months or less. The tax is included in the guest’s bill and then paid monthly by the accommodation or rental owner to the tax office.
Susan Sinquefield of the resort tax collections division of the Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office said collections for September 2011, the last month of the fiscal year, were $419,608, a 32.5 percent increase from the $316,626 reported in September 2010.
Manatee County Tax Collector Ken Burton said September’s increase was the ninth straight month that collections of the resort tax — often called the bed tax — have rose.
Although Manatee County tourism is up about 5 percent compared with the same month last year, Sinquefield said resort tax collections exceed that amount because investigators have been targeting property owners and rental managers who have failed to comply with the requirements and also have been collecting monies owed from past months.
In addition to better collection methods, Burton has installed a tax fraud hotline that allows someone to report a possible resort tax fraud and remain anonymous.
“The system has worked quite well and we’ve been able to collect quite a bit of past-due revenue,” Sinquefield said.
Additionally, resort tax investigators work with officials of the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office to target tax cheaters and homestead exemption fraud, Sinquefield said.
Anna Maria Island and the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key together bring in about 62 percent of all resort tax revenue each year, according to the annual resort tax collection figures.
For October 2011, the first month of the new budget year, Sinquefield reported resort tax collections at $348,421. That was an increase of 21.2 percent from October 2010, when $287,379 was collected.
Of the $348,421 received in October this year, 57.1 percent ($199,222) was collected from Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key combined.
In September, Island and Longboat Key collections together totaled $249,709, or 60 percent of the $419,608 total resort tax revenue.
Holmes Beach was the No. 1 municipality for resort tax revenue, collecting $108,716 in September — 25.9 percent of all collections.
In October 2011, Holmes Beach resort tax collections totaled $87,829, or 25.2 percent of all bed tax revenue.
Revenue from the resort tax is used to fund the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing budget along with beach renourishments projects on Anna Maria Island and other projects in the area. The resort tax fund is controlled by the county commission and the BACVB, Sinquefield said.
The next major Island beach renourishment project is planned for 2015-16, although some smaller renourishment projects may occur before the Islandwide event. Some renourishment is under way on Coquina Beach.
Tourism figures for September and October have not yet been released by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Through August 2011, tourist rentals were up 5 percent when compared with the same period in 2010.
Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman said she was confident, after seeing the bed tax increase, the number of visitors to the area surveyed by the BACVB would also show a jump when those figures are released.
Real estate developer Steven Hanson at the beachfront property in Bradenton Beach he recently bought. The now defunct GSR Development LLC owned the parcel and announced plans in 2003 to build a 14-unit condominium called Rosa del Mar. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
Five vacant beachfront lots in the 2500 block of Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach, that once were planned for development as Rosa del Mar, a 14-unit luxury condominium, have been sold to Anna Maria businessman Steven Hanson and some partners.
Along with the sale to Hanson went the dreams of Robert Byrne and Steve Noriega, former principals in GSR Development LLC, the company that owned Rosa del Mar. The company announced plans for the condominium project in 2003, but went into bankruptcy in 2006.
Hanson, however, said banks still consider condo to be a “four letter word” and, regardless, he’s not interested in condominium development.
Hanson envisions five luxury beachfront houses, all designed with a “Caribbean” theme, but the plan is still in the visioning process.
“We have a long way to go before we’re ready to present site plans,” he said.
He’s been involved in real estate development on the Island four years, since his move here from Great Britain, following his parents, who moved to the Island 10 years ago.
GSR Development LLC, and Byrne and Noriega, had a number of real estate investment projects on Anna Maria Island from 2003-2006, including Rosa del Mar in Bradenton Beach and the ill-fated Villa Rosa housing project in Anna Maria.
GSR reportedly paid $6 million for the Bradenton Beach property in 2003 and refinanced it for $8.6 million based on a $12 million appraisal.
The GSR real estate empire collapsed in July 2006 when the company went into bankruptcy. The Rosa del Mar property was put up for sale, but without success.
Eventually, the federal bankruptcy court hired Island real estate agent Barry Gould to find a buyer for the $9.2 million mortgage on the property. Since then, the Federal Deposit Insurance Company took over the property.
The $9.2 million asking price, however, drew little interest.
Hanson said that when he first saw the lots were for sale, he was intrigued with the possibilities for vacant beachfront property. He went to Gould, thinking he might be able to put together a good investment for single-family homes on the Gulf of Mexico.
“When Barry said ‘$9.2 million,’ I politely said ‘no way’ and said goodbye,” Hanson recalled.
But he remained “in the loop.”
He formed 9Solutions LLC and began purchasing and managing vacation rental properties.
By mid-2011, the asking price of Rosa del Mar had dropped to what Hanson believed was close to a reasonable figure. Negotiations began with the federal bankruptcy court in Tampa and the FDIC and eventually they agreed to Hanson’s offer.
Gould said that because of FDIC confidentiality regulations, he couldn’t reveal the price at this time, but Hanson said it was definitely less than $9.2 million.
Hanson said the 9Solutions LLC group that purchased the property includes contractor-developer Shawn Kaleta of Holmes Beach.
With five lots on the Rosa del Mar property, Hanson can build five single-family residences, but is opting for the slow approach. He plans to build one house at a time.
Hanson said he plans to challenge five architects to design a beachfront house in what they consider a “Coastal Caribbean” style. The winning designer will choose the name of the subdivision, Hanson said.
Hanson and Gould plan to host on-site reception at the newly acquired beachfront lots in the 2500 block of Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach, from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4.
Florida scientists studying the causes of sea turtle deaths in the Gulf of Mexico received $227,793 for the first year of an anticipated three-year, $653,379 project to determine how the red tide toxin, or brevetoxin, affects turtle health.
Endangered sea turtles inhabit areas in the Gulf of Mexico where toxic red tides are caused by algal blooms, leading to sickness and death.
Turtle deaths from red tides have spiked in recent years, threatening populations in the Gulf of Mexico. The research will advance treatment and rehabilitation procedures by predicting threatening conditions and allowing more rapid and targeted care by coastal resource managers.
Sarah Milton, a professor of biology at Florida Atlantic University, will lead the research team and will be assisted by scientists and veterinarians from Harbor Branch Institute, Mote Marine Laboratory and Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
“Sea turtles are physically robust animals, often surviving boat strikes or shark attacks, but they have proven to be highly sensitive to pollution, and are good indicators of environmental degradation,” Milton stated. “In recent years, red tide events in the Gulf of Mexico have led to hundreds of sea turtle deaths.”
Red tide also has impacts on humans — their health and, for those with ties to coastal commerce, their livelihood.