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A large fish kill and a dead manatee in a Cape Coral canal sparks examination

FGCU test canal water
Posted at 5:53 PM, Jan 05, 2023

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — We are getting answers for residents who live along the Ceitus and Kuhn Canals in Cape Coral, following concerns about dead wildlife in the canals.

After our previous reportof a large fish kill in the canals, a viewer sent a video to us showing a dead manatee in the same canal.

Fox 4 collected a water sample from the canal and took it to FGCU's water school to see exactly what's in the water.

"It barely has any color to it," said Dr. Barry Rosen, a professor and scientist with FGCU's water school. "Doesn't mean there isn't any organisms to it."

That was his first reaction when seeing the sample. Dr. Rosen first tested the salt level and found that the sample was heavily influenced by salt instead of fresh water.

"It's normal with water coming in from the Caloosahatchee, it's very normal," Dr. Rosen said.

After seeing the brown color of the water from Fox 4's Briana Brownlee'sprevious report, Dr. Rosen wanted a closer look to make sure there weren't any harmful algae blooms.

"Typically when I get blooms, it's really thick," Dr. Rosen said.

However the sample we provided was pretty thin. After taking a closer look at the sample, there was good news with no traces of algae blooms, but Dr. Rosen did find something else.

"The organism I am seeing is a cryptomonas," Dr. Rosen said.

According to Dr. Rosen that is pretty common this time of year, it's not toxic to humans and explains why the water is brown.

"They eat bacteria, which makes sense if it is a low dissolved oxygen event," Dr. Rosen said.

He believed it was a low dissolved oxygen event that caused the dozens of dead fish in the canal. However, he doesn't think that was the same cause of death for the manatee.

"Manatees wouldn't have that problem, they wouldn't die from air running out," Dr. Rosen said.

Instead he believes the cold is what killed the manatee. However, with such a large fish kill in the Ceitus canal, he said it's highly unlikely the fish died from a cold snap.

"It doesn't make sense that the cold would cause it," Dr. Rosen said. "That large of an event seems to me that there are deeper areas where fish shouldn't be dying because they will go where it's warmer, it just doesn't make sense to me."

Dr. Rosen said the true cause of the wildlife deaths can't be determined until the city of Cape Coral or FWC go to the canal and run test on site.

Fox 4 has been reaching out to the city of Cape Coral for the past few days and no one has acknowledged our request.