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Florida Keys Abnormal Fish Behavior Event Fall 2023 - Present

Weekly Update: April 10, 2024

Sawfish Mortalities Fish Kill Hotline Reports Fish Samples Collected Water Samples Collected

38

426

211

163

Table contains number of samples (water, fish) collected by or submitted to FWC. Number of hotline reports includes partner submissions from Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Lower Keys Guides Association, and the Sawfish Hotline.

 

Reports of spinning fish from the Florida Keys started in the fall of 2023 and smalltooth sawfish mortalities were first reported in January 2024. It is possible that these two events could be related.

Spinning Fish Update

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  • FWC has sent 52 fish to the University of South Alabama for analyses.
  • Based on fish necropsy data to date, there are no signs of a communicable pathogen and specimens were negative for bacterial infection.
  • Dissolved oxygen, salinity, pH, and temperature are not suspected to be the cause of the fish behavior or kills.
  • Testing of water and fish tissue did not indicate that red tide was the cause.
  • DEP is conducting water testing for a variety of chemicals, which were either not detected or were below normal limits.

Sawfish Update

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About this Event

A man and two women are standing outside next to a large metal table that is holding a large dead sawfish.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is documenting reports of abnormal fish behavior (spinning) in the Keys. There have also been reports of small-scale fish mortalities in these areas. More recently, there has been a series of smalltooth sawfish mortalities that could be related to this event. Some sawfish have exhibited spinning behavior before dying. At this time, the cause of this abnormal behavior and these mortalities is not known. Ongoing efforts involve the collection and analyses of water and tissue samples and coordinating the recovery of endangered smalltooth sawfish carcasses for necropsy, and initiating a rescue and rehabilitation response for smalltooth sawfish.

The FWC is working collaboratively with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Florida Gulf Coast University, University of South Alabama, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, and the Lower Keys Guides Association as well as other federal, state, local agencies, non-government organizations, stakeholders and the community to actively investigate this abnormal behavior.

Working with NOAA Fisheries, the FWC is participating in the emergency response effort with partners to rescue and rehabilitate smalltooth sawfish affected by this mortality event. On April 5, 2024, the first rescue of a 11-foot male smalltooth sawfish from Cudjoe Key was transported to Mote Marine Laboratory’s facility for rehabilitation. Additional participants in this rescue include: Havenworth Coastal Conservation, Ripley’s Aquariums, Mote Marine Laboratory, and Dynasty Marine Associates, Inc.

 

How You Can Help

Public reports are an essential resource for our investigation into this event. 
 

FAQs

Over 50 species impacted including Atlantic Needlefish, Atlantic Stingray, Ballyhoo, Bigeye Scad, Blacktip Shark, Blue Runner, Blue Striped Grunt, Bonnethead Shark, Dog Snapper, French Grunt, Glass Minnow, Goliath Grouper, Gray Snapper, Gray Triggerfish, Grunt, Jack Crevalle, Key Silverside, Leatherjacket, Lemon Shark, Lane Snapper, Lionfish, Lookdown, Mangrove Snapper, Mojarra, Mutton Snapper, needlefish, Nurse Shark, Permit, Pilchard, Pinfish, Pipefish, Porkfish, Remora, Sand Perch,  Sargent Major, Scaled Sardine, Silver Jenny, Silver Mullet, Smalltooth Sawfish, Snook, Spanish Mackerel, Southern Stingray, Spider Crab, Striped Mullet, Stoplight Parrotfish, Tarpon, Toadfish, unidentified snapper, unidentified baitfish, unidentified stingray, White Grunt, Yellowfin Mojarra.

Updated 4/3/2024

All fisheries in the Florida Keys that are open, remain open. Please be sure to follow all rules and regulations when you head out on the water.

Harvesting distressed or dead animals is not advised under any circumstances. For more advice on consumption or to report a suspected fish-related illness, please contact your local county health department https://www.floridahealth.gov/index.html or call the Florida Poison Information Hotline 1-800-222-1222.

 

Swimming where there are dead fish is not recommended. Please report any fish kills to the Fish Kill Hotline, 800-636-0511 or MyFWC.com/ReportFishKill.