2013 is shaping up to be a particularly deadly year for the endangered Florida manatee, whose population is estimated at around 5,000 animals.  More than 460 dead manatees have been documented in the first three months of this year – an alarmingly high number.  It has already topped the number of manatees that died all of last year. What’s going on here?

Well, among other threats, these aquatic mammals are experiencing injury and death in record numbers from exposure to atoxic algal bloom known as red tide in southwest Florida. Lee County has been particularly hard hit, followed by Charlotte County, Sarasota County and Collier County.  Red tide is a naturally occurring event, but this outbreak has persisted since September 2012 and has killed as many as 240 manatees, a new record for red tide deaths in southwest Florida.  Manatees are affected by red tide neurotoxins when they breathe, and even more so when they eat seagrass coated by the algae. The toxins cause seizures that can result in drowning when the animals cannot lift their snouts above the water to breathe.

Some manatees have been found alive but very ill, and have been transported to facilities where they receive around-the-clock care. This is the worst red tide outbreak since 1996, when 151 animals were killed by the algal bloom in the southwest part of the state. Even though the bloom is subsiding, manatees will continue to be affected for some time because toxins from the red tide have settled onto seagrass beds. [continue]

Tags: algae, endangered, manatees, marine life, red tide

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks for informing us about the manatee problems. I will read the article to see if anything is being done about it.

Thanks for letting us know about the red tide danger to manatees. Toxic cyanobacteria have also been affecting California otters, along with pesticides and even toxoplasmosis, and pollution is killing coastal dolphins too. These wildlife dye offs are canaries in the mine.

New Diseases, Toxins Harming Marine Life

Because people eat shellfish harvested where the land meets the sea, the sea otters may be serving as an "early warning system" for human health risks,...

No, I don't like the losses, but it is important to know. Boats can be controlled. Red bloom is a natural events and I assume there is no remedy. I wonder if transport to healthier waters is an option?

Not entirely natural.

Ocean Ecosystems Plagued By Agricultural Runoff

Researchers have long suspected that fertilizer runoff from big farms can trigger sudden explosions of marine algae capable of disrupting ocean ecosystems and even producing "dead zones" in the sea. Now a new study by Stanford University scientists presents the first direct evidence linking large-scale coastal farming to massive algal blooms in the sea. [continue]

There we go again, unintended consequences by well intended acts. There has to be a remedy. Public education is one. This is sad, indeed. 

yes, I agree Joan - we need to educate others.

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