Red tide suspected of killing manatees in gulf

Dead manatees

SARASOTA, Fla. --Red Tide it’s out in the Gulf of Mexico and depending on the wind’s direction it can ruin a trip to the beach.

“You start to cough, cough sometimes eyes get very itchy,” says Pasqua Rago, she’s visiting from New Jersey.

But beach goers can pack up and leave marine life isn’t as lucky.

“This is a shame, wow,” says Pasqua Rago as she reacts to this photo of a manatee washed up on Siesta Key Tuesday and then on Wednesday another manatee was found dead in Englewood. This brings this week’s total to eight manatees so far this week between Bradenton and Charlotte County.

“We’re dealing with endangered species…we’re really concerned,” says Gretchen Lovewell, a staff scientist and stranding manager for Mote Marine.

Mote Marine has been assisting FWC with rescues and recoveries. FWC reports another 11 manatee deaths by March 5th, all suspected of red tide and bringing this year’s total to 19. The cause of death for this week’s cases are pending test results.

Lovewell says, “We’re getting a lot of calls about sick, dead or distressed sea turtles, as well as manatees.”

 Lovewell says as the weather warms up, manatees return to the area, and swim right into the red tide bloom off shore.

That’s pretty typical of what we’ve been finding,” says Lovewell as she looks at the photo of a manatee beached on Siesta Key this week.

Manatees swimming through water affected by red tide can struggle to breathe.

It’s a neuro toxin for them,” says Lovewell. She adds, “It makes them really disoriented.  They’ll have seizures, repeated barrel rolls or fold up can’t figure out which way is up to surface to breath.”

But manatees don’t have to die. Lovewell says, “Remarkably if we can get to them and get them out of the environment they can turn around pretty quickly.”

If you do come across a manatee in trouble, call FWC or Mote for help.

 “Even if they’re debilitated, they can be dangerous. They’ll be more powerful in the water than we are when they’re sick,” warns Lovewell.

To report an animal in distress call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-3922. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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