An emergency effort is kicking off next week to help save endangered smalltooth sawfish, as their reported deaths has risen to 28.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday that it will begin a program to rescue and rehabilitate distressed sawfish to prevent further loss of the species.

In a press release announcing the effort, NOAA explained that it would be the first of its kind.

"If the opportunity presents itself, this would be the first attempt ever to rescue and rehabilitate smalltooth sawfish from the wild," said Adam Brame, NOAA Fisheries' sawfish recovery coordinator.

In addition to the 28 mortalities, at least 109 sawfish have been reported acting abnormally.

"We suspect that total mortalities are greater, since sawfish are negatively buoyant and thus unlikely to float after death," said Brame.

Separately, observers have also counted at least 40 fish species showing strange spinning behaviors.

"We've gotten multiple reports of fish swimming, erratically, whirling behavior... most of these fish are not dying," explained Gil McCrae, the director of FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

The agency has not directly connected the deaths of the endangered smalltooth sawfish and the erratic fish behavior, but the investigation is ongoing.

According to the FWC's Abnormal Fish Behavior Event dashboard, the agency has sent 52 fish and 12 smalltooth sawfish to the University of South Alabama for analysis since late last year.

In a Facebook live hosted by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust last week, Dr. Alison Robertson, Associate Professor of Marine Sciences at the University of South Alabama explained some of the other experiments her lab is conducting for this research.

"We're going to collect a lot of water from affected places," she said. "And we're going to try and do controlled experiments with fish from non-affected areas, to see if we can reproduce those behavioral effects."

While the cause of these bizarre behaviors is still unknown, scientists have focused their attention on elevated levels of a toxin in the gambierdiscus family.

It is important to note that Local 10 News is not aware of any cases of human illness related to this abnormal fish behavior event. But scientists do advise if you see a fish swimming erratically, it is best to avoid eating it.