Manatee Deaths Caused by Red Tide Near Florida Record

149 manatees have been killed by the deadly algae bloom so far in 2013

Sunday, Mar 10, 2013  |  Updated 7:15 PM EDT
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FWC Reminding Boaters To Slow Down for Migrating Manatees

Dave Parkinson/Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo

This is one of the manatees being treated at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo for exposure to toxins in a red tide bloom.

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Manatee Deaths Caused by Red Tide Near Record

A near-record amount of manatees have died on the southwest Florida coast from a red tide bloom so far this year, according to state biologists. Some manatees are being treated at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, including the one seen in this video.

Raw Video: Manatees Off Brickell

Check out aerial footage of manatees swimming in the waters off Brickell.
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A deadly algae bloom is causing a record number of manatee deaths in Florida, state biologists said.

A red tide bloom has been killing 10 or more manatees a day and the deadly algae bloom shows no sign of letting up any time soon, the Tampa Bay Times reported on Friday.

"This is probably going to be the worst die-off in history," said Martine DeWit, a veterinarian who oversees the state's marine mammal pathology laboratory.

The record for manatees killed by red tide was set in 1996 with 151 killed by a toxin in the algae bloom. As of Friday, the number killed this year hit 149, and the number could surpass the current record by the end of the weekend.

FWC Reminding Boaters To Slow Down for Migrating Manatees

DeWit said the toxins in the bloom likely settled onto the sea grass that manatee eat, causing them to become paralyzed and eventually drown. The grass beds will also likely retain their poisonous coating for another two months.

Nearly a dozen manatees have been rescued and are being treated at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo.

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Red tide turns the water into a rust color, releasing large amounts of toxins. The current bloom affects 70 miles of the southwest Florida coast, from Sarasota through the middle of Lee County.

Estimates show there are between 4,000-5,000 manatees in Florida, and less than half of them are found in southwest Florida, according to the Tampa Bay Times report. Virtually all of the manatees killed by the red tide have turned up in the center of that stretch.

Below: A manatee being treated at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, courtesy of zoo docent Dave Parkinson.

 

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