Created on: March 14, 2013
A large number of manatees are being killed by a red tide algae bloom along the southwestern section of the Florida coast. Ten or more manatee are reportedly dying each day. In previous years the most manatees dying was 151.
However, it is only March and already in 2013 174 manatees have died, and their deaths are being attributed to the algae bloom. According to
CNN, Florida wildlife officials have said this is the highest number of manatees to die from the red tide in a calendar year.
Manatees are already an endangered animal and under the protection of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Florida state officials are concerned over the high number of deaths so far this year.
The red tide is believed to be more common when cold air enters the Gulf of Mexico. Usually it only stays for a few weeks, but this year the red tide is described as being persistent.
"It's kind of filled in an area where they've congregated and are feeding on sea grass where the toxins settle on," said Kevin Baxter, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, reported the CNN piece.
The red tide algae blooms are an annual event, AccuWeather explains. The natural phenom occurs when a higher concentration of algae appears, giving the waters a red or brown tint.
"Not everything about the red tide is understood," said AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski. "The algae blooms sometimes show up when we have cold surges in the South during the late winter, early spring."
"Three weeks ago, there was a prolonged cold snap. Shortly after that, the reports of a red tide and dead fish began," Kottlowski elaborated.
While algae is a natural occurrence, this type of algae is toxic to Florida manatees, affecting the animal's nervous system. The red tide is not attributed to any type of human activity or coastal development. Its appearance has reportedly been documented at least as far back as the 1700s.
Conservation efforts have already long been underway. These algae-related manatee deaths are a devastating blow to the population.
Additionally, fish and other vertebrates are also at risk.
Authorities and wildlife groups are asking the public to report any ailing manatees that might be observed along the coast. Local officials can be called and also call (888) 404-3922 is listed as a contact number. If gotten to early enough, some manatees can be rescued from the deadly effects of the red tide.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking to escalate the manatees' position from endangered to threatened.
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