Fish Kill Hotline celebrates 20 years of advancing science

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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Dec. 1, 2015

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Fish Kill Hotline celebrates 20 years of advancing science

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish Kill Hotline remains an invaluable resource for the public and science community. Entering its 21st year, the hotline continues its mission of investigating fish kills and building a broad index of data for further scientific research and management.

For decades, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Health Group has been documenting and responding to reports of fish kills, disease and abnormalities. As fish kill reports increased, so did the need to streamline the process and gather comprehensive data, which resulted in the establishment of the Fish Kill Hotline in 1995.

Initially, response to fish kills was primarily local, covering only St. Petersburg, but it quickly grew into a statewide monitor, alert and response program for aquatic animal disease and mortality events. The Fish and Wildlife Health Group has developed a network of partners with various local, state and federal agencies and members of the public to help respond to events. These partnerships allow staff to identify potential causes of fish kills and other aquatic animal mortality incidents, document all reports, inform the public and advise management.

Staff track marine and freshwater kills and diseases, as well as other aquatic animal health issues and associated environmental events. Reports from the public are critical to locate, track and understand the extent of fish kills. In the past five years, calls from citizens alerted staff to two large-scale, multispecies fish kills in the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Johns River. Collaborating with partner agencies and the Department of Health, the FWC was able to monitor the kills and associated environmental factors and finally determine that the kills were a result of harmful algal blooms.

“Reporting observations to the hotline ensures a coordinated response to incidents and alleviates public concern that there are environmental problems,” said Theresa Cody, associate research scientist. “All the data collected from the events are used in conjunction with directed research to further understand the causes of fish kills and disease incidences so we can make management decisions that might prevent future events.”

Although public, state-managed water systems take priority, Fish Kill Hotline staff respond to all reports. Each report is documented in a searchable online public database. The database was established in 2000 to help scientists identify trends in aquatic animal mortality and disease incidents, and plan an appropriate response.

The public’s involvement is critical to the Fish Kill Hotline mission. Report a fish kill by calling FWC’s Fish Kill Hotline at 1-800-636-0511. All calls during normal business hours are answered by a scientist. People can leave a voicemail after hours or report an incident on the Fish Kill Hotline website by going to and selecting “Saltwater” then “Fish Health.” The Fish Kill Hotline is sponsored in part by a U.S. Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration grant.

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